A/N: Slightly different from the original contest entry. Comments are appreciated, as always. Thank you for reading.

Stand up?


He's fought to remain on his feet, even when suffering from injuries that would have downed most men. But this last blow cuts deeper, bleeds him drier, than any wound a weapon could ever inflict. He knows it's a mortal blow, but his body still insists on breathing.

He's exhausted, so exhausted. It's seeped into his bones, and further still, weighing down his very spirit.

Maybe, if he tries, he could move, just a little, but –


There's nothing to reach for anymore.

Sano's yelling again, his mind dully registers. Kill. Enishi. Avenge. At peace. As if that was possible anymore. What did it matter anyway? She was gone. He'd already failed. He can't change anything now. Let him just stay here and –

He's being lifted – Sano's pulling him up by his clothes, and bellowing his name.

Maybe if he gives them an answer, they'll all leave him alone.

"It's...already...enough..." He manages to whisper. "This one's already...worn out."

An expletive, and suddenly he's down again, his body sliding along the ground. Sano's still yelling.

And suddenly, there are other voices, unfamiliar ones – others have appeared. And then Megumi's crying out too, in alarm.

He looks at the sky. He thinks, I wasn't supposed to move from there. He's not supposed to move forward.

He has no right to.

Slowly, he rises to his feet.

He wasn't supposed to be able to. His body threatens to fail him. The chained sakabatou is so heavy in his hand. But he just needs to get back, and then he won't move anymore. Just one step, two steps...

He reaches the spot, and sinks back onto the ground. The wall against his back, sakabatou against his shoulder, one leg folded. Just like before.

They're all silently gazing at him. Hopefully they'll go away soon. He closes his eyes. He's just too tired.

He recalls her face – he wants to think of nothing else. He clings to the memory of her smile – it warms what's left of his heart. She was too beautiful, and too young; a living, fleeting, dream, one he won't ever let go of.

Maybe if he sleeps, he'll dream that dream again.

Let me sleep like this...quietly...

It's not real. It'll never be real again.

But it's all that's left to him.