Himura Kenshin does not belong to me, dammit, and neither does anything else created
in/by the manga or anime. All I can claim is these particular words and the way they're
put together. For additional info (like what's with the title), see the endnotes.

By wombat

Part 1: A sword dripping blood

Tomoe stumbled forward into Kenshin's arms. Her hair clung to his mouth with the hot
salt of her tears, like the blood he had spattered across her that rainy night. He could feel
her heart beating against his, her soft weight warm and alive. Kenshin had never held a
woman like this before, or been held. Kenshin had never been in a woman's embrace at

Shinta had, though. Shinta's mother had loved him and cared for him. Sometimes he still
woke from half-remembered dreams in which her soft-sleeved arm dissolved in his grasp,
withering away to the stark scabbard in his hands. Even after his parents' death, when he
was consigned to the slavers, some of the girls had looked after him, cradling him at night
to keep him warm.

The last women in his arms until now had been Akane, Sakura, and Kasumi. Their
bandit-butchered bodies had been cold and stiff as he dragged them to the graves he'd
dug. When he placed the stone markers above them, his hands had still been sticky with
their blood, leaving behind crude prints like a child's drawing.

Now his world was reeling around him like a spinning top, as fundamentally changed as
when that unknown, desperate bodyguard had cut his face. His first wound from an
enemy in earnest, his first proof that he was not invulnerable or immortal. The proof that
someday, he could die.

Tomoe's pale kimono slid down her shoulders, like her dark hair across his skin. The
scent of white plum hung all around her, as it had around the girls he'd buried. Before
Master Hiko had washed it away with his offering of sake, white plum had mingled with
the reek of blood at their graves.

All of his senses were surging as with oncoming battle, but with no opponent to face,
only Tomoe. Her touch seemed to cut him as deeply as the bodyguard's sword had, but
this had nothing to do with death. It was the first proof to him that he was fully alive, that
life still welcomed and rejoiced in him, that life could still burst from his touch as green
and hopeful as daikon leaves beneath the rain.

Tomoe still trembled wordlessly in his arms. Slowly, he bent to kiss her, the firelight
shining crimson through his hair as it fell over them both, like a rain of blood.