Warning: you have now crossed over into the zone of my imagination, where anything and everything is possible. As a forewarning, this is an AU (alternate universe) Rurouni Kenshin fic. That might explain some of the odd things you're about to encounter (like last names that make no sense…) ^_^

I wish I owned Kenshin, but reality likes to disappoint people like me all too often. As always, standard disclaimers apply.

I would like to give a bit of thanks to Sting, Weiß Kreuz, ramen, windy afternoons, my best friend Kit, and, of course, my muse. Desert Rose

By Lady Calliope

Chapter 1: So Long Ago

The fourteen year-old's eyes widened in naïve curiosity as her wandering gaze fell upon an object she had never seen before in her grandfather's study. It was a gold chain necklace whose only adornment was a single diamond teardrop. Nothing ornate, but still there was something in its aura…

Light in weight as well as beautiful, it seemed to shine with a luster all its own as she fastened the piece of jewelry around her neck. While she was busily admiring her new borrowed accessory in the full-length mirror, she did not sense nor hear the quiet footfalls approaching her from behind.     

"Ayame…"

She jumped what seemed, to her, a foot at the gentle sound. But once she had managed to mollify her racing heart rate, she recognized the voice. Cringing slightly as she turned to face it, she prepared herself for the censorious lecture that was undoubtedly to follow her little treasure hunt.

"Ayame, what have I told you about rummaging around in my study?" the man reprimanded softly, lightly placing a hand on her shoulder.

Afraid of earning a disapproving look, she racked her memory for the conversations she and her grandfather had had about this particular subject before. Hesitantly, she replied, "Um…don't rummage without you…?"

The old man's face broke out into a wide smile. "That's my girl. Now tell me, how did you come across that necklace you're wearing, Ayame-chan?"

"I found it lying on your desk, Grandpa. Really! I didn't go through your desk drawers or anything like that this time!" she earnestly explained. Sometimes it was very difficult to discern whether or not Grandpa Yahiko would become angry at her behavior or not…

There was a pause as Yahiko cleared away the many memories that clouded his mind as he really saw the diamond embellishment adorning his granddaughter's slim neck for the first time. "Good work, child," he exalted in a slightly louder voice, " I was looking at that earlier today."

Silence once again enveloped the two as he once again retreated to the shores of his memory while the teenager scrutinized the piece of jewelry. As the warm rays of the late afternoon sun peeked through the blinds and caught the diamond in their wake, the teardrop seemed to be…crying. Whether it was in joy or sorrow was unknown to her.

"Grandpa," Ayame asked quietly after a few moments had passed, "is there a story or something behind this necklace? It just doesn't seem…ordinary."

Myoujin Yahiko chuckled in an almost nostalgic way. "That it isn't, my dear. That it isn't…" he sighed, his words barely above a whisper. "Come. I have a great story surrounding that necklace, but I think this would be a story best suited for the fireside. Desert nights can be quite bone-chilling, don't you think?"

And so, the two slowly made their way towards the grand living room of the desert mansion to speak of a tale of long ago.