Note: This story comes about from me listening to the T.A.T.U. song "30 Minutes," which I have on repeat at the moment. On the one hand, I'm trying to think of what AMV I could use for this, but on the other, I find myself thinking of a story.

Thirty Minutes

Soon, Kyuzo thought tiredly as he walked along the forest path, patrolling the woods beside Kanna Village. Soon, the battle begins. By their estimates, the bandits would arrive tomorrow, probably at dawn. All he could do now was hope that everything they had done would be enough.

At last, he sighed and stopped walking, rubbing his eyes wearily. But it was more than just exhaustion of the body... it was a weariness of the soul. He was tired of fighting, tired of running...

"Go get some rest, Kyuzo-dono," he heard, and he turned to see Shichiroji approaching, his staff over one shoulder.

Kyuzo shook his head, and Shichiroji sighed.

"You won't be much good if you're dead on your feet." The lanky blond samurai leaned against the rock wall on the far side of the path. "Come on, we both know that the Nobuseri are going to show up at some point tomorrow... try and get at least some sleep."

Kyuzo glared at him, and Shichiroji held up his hands in mock terror.

"Come on, I'm just trying to help. Pretend to sleep, at least. Who knows, you might actually manage to get in some real rest for once."

"I doubt it," Kyuzo said quietly, looking away.

Shichiroji studied the fair-haired assassin, then sighed and ran his fingers through his hair.

Kyuzo had to admit the idea of lying down for a little while sounded pretty good.

Shichiroji could see him weakening. "Come on, Kyuzo-dono... just a couple of hours. That's all. Just get in a nap, at least."

"Fine," Kyuzo finally agreed. "But that's all."

Shichiroji managed to stifle his grin, but only barely. But Kyuzo still caught him at it, and gave him a lopsided smile of his own as he turned toward Kanna.

As he walked along the path toward Rikichi's house, he passed Nasami and Katsushiro, the samuraiko having just finished her own turn on watch.

"Kyuzo-dono," Katsushiro greeted him, and Nasami turned and nodded at him. She murmured something to Katsushiro, who nodded in return, and then she fell into step beside Kyuzo.

Their silence was companionable as they walked toward Rikichi's house, and a short while later, they were both stretched out on their pallets on the floor. The others not on watch were already sound asleep, and Kyuzo glanced at them enviously. However, Nasami caught his glance and frowned.

"What's wrong?" she asked softly, so as not to wake up the others.

"I would give anything for just thirty minutes of true sleep," he murmured before he could stop himself. It was a habit he had never been able to break - years spent as a bodyguard meant you were always alert, always half-awake against any threat. He couldn't remember the last time he had just given himself up to sleep.

Then he rolled onto his side, facing away from Nasami before she could read anything else in his eyes in that uncanny way of hers.

A futile hope, for a moment later, he was startled to feel a warm body behind him, and the faint hint of sandalwood. An arm wrapped around his waist and drew him back, and he felt her rest her cheek against his shoulderblades.

"Sleep, Kyuzo," she whispered, her voice no more than a breath. "Thirty minutes. I'll protect you."

For a moment, he smiled to himself in the darkness, because he should have guessed that Nasami would understand. But then Kyuzo's last thought before sinking into blissful sleep was that Shichiroji would never let him hear the end of it.