Disclaimer: Rurouni Kenshin, and most of the characters related to and featuring in the following fictional stories are property of creator and master manga artist Watsuki Nobuhiro, and no copyright infringement was intended in any way in the creation of these projects. Used without permission.

~*~

Piercing The Darkness

A "Light Of The Snow-Red Village" Side-Story/Songfic

Akai Kitsune

~*~

I used to see in black and white
Never something in between
Waiting on the love of my life
To come into my dreams
Everything in shades of grey
Never any blues or greens
I needed someone else to turn to
Someone who could help me learn to see
All the beauty that was waiting for me

~*~

'It's so dark outside...'

Kenshin opened the shoji, looking up to see the moon shining its dull light upon the field below. He followed the path, slow and observant, letting the moonlight guide him. He needed to think; indeed, there was much to think about, after the recent occurrences.

He was a father.

He felt confused, almost dizzy, at the sudden prospect.

'I never thought...'

'Someone like me shouldn't have this...'

'... this wonder, this gift...'

His wife and the baby were sleeping soundly within the cabin. They were tired, and rightly so. He, having many reasons besides anxiety, could not sleep.

'What if I do something wrong? What if I hurt her accidentally?'

'What if... what if someday... it's not an accident?'

'... what if...'

He hesitated, casting a glance towards the cabin again. His sakabatou rested inside, unused since the gift was given to him.

So many gifts.

Allowing himself a small smile, he brushed his bangs away from his eyes. So many gifts... so many of which he did not deserve.

A loving wife, a comfortable home...

... a child to hold, to care for...

... such a beautiful child...

He remembered the first moment he had set his eyes on the little bundle; tired, mewling quietly for her mother, eyes the same shade as his own gazing curiously at him. He remembered feeling tears in his own eyes, then.

It was only two days since. Hikari's eyes were closed now, and they remained that way for most of the day. The doctor said it was natural, and it would pass soon; that she was merely growing accustomed to the light.

Light.

He shook his head, the smile growing to be one of amusement. Everything reminded him of her; the slightest mention, a quiet remark, a sideways glance at the sun or the glow in the eyes of his wife.

Light.

He looked at the moon again, and closed his eyes, tilting back his head. The light spilled over his form; the night wasn't quite so dark as it had been.

When he closed his eyes, the image of his family shimmered in the depths of his mind.

Light.

'... oh Tomoe, do you know what you have given me?'

'Oh, love...'

~*~

I left those hazy days behind me
Never to return again
Now they're just a faded memory
'Cause it's all so clear to see
The beauty that was waiting for me

~*~

Tomoe woke, hearing a soft whimper in the darkness. Rubbing her eyes, she sat up, pushing aside the pain and objection her body sent to her. She moved towards the futon beside her, taking the baby into her arms to feed her. As Hikari's cries died down to contented suckling, settling against her breast, the young mother glanced around blearily for her husband.

'Kenshin...?'

It was unusual for him to leave; unusual, because since the first moment he had revealed his knowledge of her pregnancy, he was rarely far away. She sat on the bed, rocking softly and whispering to her child, and puzzled about her husband's disappearance.

'He won't have gone far. I know him better than that.'

'But... for him to leave at all... during the night...'

She shivered, memories of the not-too distant past of the Bakumatsu coming unwanted to her mind. Memories of waking alone... seeing the futon empty, and feeling so cold at the sight, regardless of the temperature. Knowing distantly where he was and what he was doing... weeping, because of it.

He had so much blood on his hands...

... yet he had been forced day and night to place more dead souls on his already-weary shoulders...

She shook her head, berating herself. No, he was certainly not forced, though his sense of honour and loyalty would not permit him to surrender himself to that burden. He had never allowed himself go mad, if only because there were those who had depended on his ability to think clearly.

Though, sometimes...

Sometimes she wondered if...

Tomoe clenched her eyes shut, ordering the thoughts to be silenced, knowing their very existence was a betrayal of her husband.

She had already betrayed him once...

'... never again. I will never do that again.'

'Not even... not even for you, Akira-san.'

'I owe him so much... for this child in my arms, I will always be in his debt... no matter what he does, it can never match this gift...'

'Anata... do you know what you have done for me?'

~*~

"Anata... don't worry. It will be all right..."

"Anata... come see her..."

"You should have seen her, anata... her eyes... a moment ago, they were the same colour as yours..."

"Hikari. Our light."

~*~

So warm... so bright...

Kenshin stirred, eyes opening to greet the moonlight. Consciousness returned to him suddenly; and the smile on his face mingled with an unsettled frown. He was still standing.

'It's been several months, but... I can still rest like this... like I used to, during the raids...'

A soft wind sliced through the air, sending an involuntary shiver up his spine. The moon remained unchanged, shining a deep, enduring light upon the path.

Light.

He closed his eyes.

'... oh, love...'

"Anata...?"

'... oh, love...'

Turning, Kenshin met the eyes of his young wife, an easy smile spreading across his face. "Aa, I'm here, Tomoe. Did Hikari wake you, or did I?"

She shook her head, weariness in her eyes, as she stood, leaning on the doorway of the cabin. "Iie, not you. Hikari-chan... she needed to be fed." A small bundle was wrapped in her arms, and he could sense the presence of his child, not quite sleeping.

Light.

"Demo," she continued, heedless of his interrupted thoughts, "You were gone, and... I wondered..."

'... you wondered where I was, as you always have,' he finished in the quiet of his own mind, a sudden burst of guilt following closely. 'You came for me, despite your weariness, to seek out your foolish, worrisome husband, muddling over things he shouldn't be thinking of right now...'

'But... can I really ignore this?'

Light. It was everywhere.

'It... cannot be ignored.'

He moved towards her, silent besides the rustle of his clothes against the grass. Gently taking her by the waist, he led her inside and helped her lie down. He smiled again, hoping to make her more at ease, and took the dozing child from her. His eyes cast over the baby's face, tender and bright.

Light.

'Oh, love.'

Tomoe watched him, touched by the pure emotion he showed - could not help, could not hide - as he gazed at their daughter, and she shared his expression. "How does it feel, otousan?" she murmured, almost - almost - teasingly, reaching out to push a few strands of hair away from his face.

He chuckled weakly, still tentative and nervous. "It feels... kami-sama, how do you describe... what it feels like to hold the world in your hands, and realize how..." he gulped, eyes wavering. "... how terribly, beautifully fragile it is..."

She stroked his cheek, feeling only briefly the broken skin across his left cheek. "Hai... fragile, yet... you know that you will never do anything to break what you hold so carefully."

The smile reached his eyes that time, and he returned Hikari to her mother's arms, moving behind Tomoe and letting her lean against his strong body. His arms draped across her shoulders, holding her close, his head rested against her soft hair. She nestled closer to him, his body warm despite how cold it had been outside.

Kenshin reached out after a moment, his finger brushing along the baby's cheek, as gently as Tomoe's touch had been against his own. Hikari squirmed, letting out a quiet cry. "You're right. Like a flower, she is..." he pressed his nose into her hair, smelling the plum blossom perfume that had imbedded itself into his soul as her scent, and hers alone. "So fragile, yet so strong. Something that needs to be protected... nourished... loved."

"She is loved." Tomoe whispered, kissing the child's forehead.

Kenshin nodded. "She is loved," he echoed. "Always."

His voice was soft and... focused; as if he were battling in Kyoto, were traveling to Otsu, or returning home from the village.

"If you had drawn that sword, you would have been fighting me."

"Let's live together. I don't know how long it will last, but... it doesn't have to be for show. Together... till death do us part."

"I protect... protect you..."

She closed her eyes the memories flooding her mind, his kind words touching her heart as they had so subtly done years ago.

'I didn't realize it then, but... whenever he spoke like that, I saw a glimmer of Akira-san in him...'

'I saw the man I loved, and... I fell for him as well...'

However, watching him, she realized it was far more simple.

'No, I did not fall. I came to him... and I gave myself to him willingly. Perhaps my initial intentions were different-'

'-I pray he will never know-'

'-But despite it all, we have endured.'

"Always."

'That's all that matters.'

Hikari whimpered again, mouth left parted. Upon sudden impulse, Tomoe began to hum, recalling distantly a lullaby her mother used to sing. The tune was soothing, though slightly fuzzy in her memories, but as she relaxed in her husband's arms, the notes flowed easily from her lips. She felt her body move, as Kenshin rocked gently back and forth, a natural cradle for the small, tired family.

The thought came to her, then; as she half-sung an old, old song, rocking slightly in the arms of her beloved, feeling the warmth of the baby, her baby, against her chest.

Life is so much more than merely living.

~*~

You... you put the blue back in the sky
You put the rainbow in my eyes
The silver lining in my prayers
And now there's colour everywhere
You put the red back in the rose
Just when I needed it the most
You came along to show you care
And now there's colour everywhere

~*~

The world had stepped out of the darkness; there was nothing left but the light.

Even with his eyes closed, Kenshin could see the brightness shining through. As he rocked mother and child into peaceful slumber, he felt a contentment he had not felt...

... can one ever feel this way before holding a child?

Because at that sudden, perfect moment, he realized he had never before held a baby.

Though the child of another would not be so wonderful. He was grateful, in a way; the first child held in his arms was his own.

His.

'My Light.'

'...oh, love...'

Gazing at his daughter's face, her violet eyes - so like his own, yet so different; so clean, so clear so very innocent - he made a promise.

'I will protect you...'

'I will teach you...'

'I will guide you...'

'... oh, love...'

'I will... I will love you...'

'And maybe... maybe someday, I will tell you... what you have changed in my life...'

'Looking back, I cannot imagine a life without this wonder, this joy...'

'This feeling...'

'Forever... forever, I will love...'

'... itsumo, Hikari-chan...'

'... you are my light...'

'... protect... I... protect...'

'... itsumo...'

Kenshin let his eyes slip closed at that thought, holding it in his heart even as he held his wife and newborn child. All fear and worries momentarily leaving his troubled mind, he followed them into the comforting bliss of sleep.

~*~

You'll hold this world's most priceless thing
The greatest gift this life can bring
If you can look back and know
You were loved...

~*~
Owari
~*~

WAFF! I did it!

The title is actually a novel by Frank E. Peretti my father had hidden away in his basement. I found it one day while searching for some good literature ("Chrysalids" was promptly rejected, let me tell you), and I found this little gem. Well, perhaps not little... but it's a very good read, though the stories aren't similar in the slightest. I liked the title, and please forgive me for borrowing it; but I'm telling you right now IT'S NOT MINE. So long as that's clear.

I recently had a burst of inspiration thanks to the "Touched By An Angel" soundtrack I received for Christmas about two or three years ago. At the time, I really didn't enjoy the CD; I'm not precisely sure why. I have to thank my mom for bringing it out and leaving it on the computer desk... while flipping through the lyrics I found two perfect songs for this fic. I'd been running myself ragged wondering about what song to use, because it's become a bit of a ritual for me to use at least one song per story (that is, for LSRV), so I wanted a good one. I wrestled with "Arms Wide Open" by Creed, but it's didn't quite suit the mood I was looking for. Maybe I'll use it later. I finally settled on Deana Carter's "Colour Everywhere", ending with a few lines by Wynonna.

I really, really wanted to do this fic because it expressed the change in Kenshin and Tomoe after the birth of Hikari, that I never delved into in LSRV Part I. Particularly Kenshin, whom I have trouble with; with so many fanfics out there it's difficult to write something original... unique to Kenshin's character. I figured something like this would be good. Thank goodness Risu-chan and Tae-san of the Akabeko haven't finished their fics, or I'd probably get murdered... -_-;; But for now, the father-daughter mush belongs to me! (BWAHAHA!)

This story is dedicated to Lee-san, who has been waiting oh-so-patiently for a happy ending to at least ONE of my stories. ^_^ Happy now?