And it goes. Might as well leave reviews for silly fics like these, I don't get this way often.

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Sand, Sun, and A Fur Blanket
By: Karina Kineshi (coronaflare@mail.com)

"Megumi, are you sure you want to do this?"

I nodded.

"On... our first date?" he gulped.

"Our second date," I corrected.

He stammered. "What if we regret this? We've got to think of the conse—"

"Do it to me! I'm hot!"

He paused, and then put his hands on my back and started untying that obi that Genzai-sensei had spent about 15 minutes on. It unnerved me that he knew exactly how to untie it. I asked myself how many obis before this he had untied before. The dim light in the hole flickered when a gust of wind ruffled the blanket.

I growled.

Right now, we were in our "home", a hole in the ground. I'd heard that expression used before, but this was completely ridiculous. And even worse, I was actually starting to like it. Once we crawled into the hole, together, Sanosuke threw the blanket over the opening and blotted out the sun. The fur was big enough to do that. At its deepest, there was enough room for me to stand, but Sanosuke had to duck a little. It was also wide enough to lie down in, but I wondered how the sand didn't cave in on us.

"It's because of my punch," he explained while working behind me. "I think that when I hit the sand, some of it got blasted into the side, making the wall..." I must have asked that out loud. He was working a little more steadily now, not with the jerky movements as before. Sometimes his hand would slip from the fabric and graze against my back, and I found myself wishing that would happen a little more often.

"Why do you know so much about deserts, anyways?"

Sanosuke stopped. "Why do you know so little?"

"What's that supposed to mean?" I demanded.

"I thought you knew everything. That's all."

A breath of air escaped my lungs when he fluidly pulled the obi and most of its parts free. It surprised me to this day that foreigners thought that the obi was just one strip of cloth. With the constrictive garment free, I tried to maintain a little bit of dignity and wrapped the obi cord tightly around myself. Since the sash was gone, the "handkerchief", as foreigners call it, was hanging over the edge of the cord.

"I'm done."

I sighed. It felt great to be free of that ghastly thing; I could breathe without problem. It would have to double as a bandage for now. Now, it wasn't the actual sash itself, just one of the many layers of the obi. I was glad I wore it. With a pin from my hair in my teeth and that small obi strip in my hand, I turned around, scooting over the sand with my ankles.

Now let's...

The blood rushed to my cheeks. Sanosuke was already lying down on the slight incline. His eyes were closed and his hands were behind his head. Was he sleeping? That wasn't what made me blush though. He had taken his red jacket off his arms but kept it under him as a barrier from the sand and his back. Even though it was cool in the ground, his whole chest glimmered with sweat. This man had shadows in all the right places, speaking from a purely medical point of view...

Megumi!

"Are you just going to sit there and stare at me all day?" One eye opened and regarded me with a cool gaze, set in a perpetual wink. "Not that I'm complaining, of course."

"Of course not!" When I said that, the pin in my mouth fell and landed on my kimono. I could still see him grinning, the jerk. Embarrassed, I grabbed his wrist and tied the makeshift bandage around it, pointedly ignoring his cries of pain. "That should teach you," I muttered.

"Can't you be a little more careful?"

"Can't you be a little less egotistical?"

"I'm not egotistical," he insisted. Sanosuke pulled himself to an upright position while I was wrapping. "It's not my fault I look good."

Narcissism, anyone?

He did have a point. I'm going to kick myself later for letting myself get carried away like that. I decided to change the topic. "Well, I don't want someone who looks good now, I want someone who is good."

"I can be that too." This was said with an evil glint that even I could see in the semi-darkness.

"I'm not joking around... we need to figure out what we're going to do from here." I finished wrapping and pinned it neatly in place. I saw that it wasn't going to hold, but instead of warning him to be careful, I took another pin and put it crosswise. "We've got to have a plan."

Sanosuke leaned back and inspected my handiwork. I almost apologized for the disarray of the bandages, but then I remembered our situation. "Nice job fox. I'll try to be careful with it."

I shrugged and moved closer to the wall of sand. I quickly found out it was cooler when you sat next to it. "It's not like I'll wear that thing again."

There was an awkward silence, but I couldn't understand why. Not being in the heat made me regain my ability to think clearly, but not by much. I placed the blame on the fact that we probably wanted to conserve energy, and talking unnecessarily would waste what little we had. Maybe... there was just nothing to say following that.

He cleared his throat. "We can move during the late afternoon. It's too hot now. Just rest for now. I've got it all worked out."

As apprehensive I would have been about believing that statement, I felt oddly comforted. My mind pointed out all the things that he had done to prove that he was a man of his word. Relaxed now, I fell asleep.

*****

I was having the most horrid nightmare about...

Wait a minute, I'm awake.

The next thing I knew, the sun exploded and dry air cascaded over my wall. I opened my eyes so quickly I was afraid I'd get sand in them. This wasn't a dream? I felt the ground under me. Nope, not a futon. Sand.

"Sanosuke... what's the big idea?"

In the fading light, I could see a shadow towering over me from behind. "I tried to wake you up but you wouldn't. It's time to move." He spread the blanket out over the sand and told me to hurry. "We only have a few hours until it gets really cold." I groggily scrambled to my feet and shook the sand out of my hair. Then he stopped and asked me, "Do you like fur or leather better?

"Leather," I answered without hesitation. I was surprised that I didn't think the question was silly. Maybe I had started to take Sanosuke's peculiar behaviors in stride. "Why?" The inside of my mouth felt like sandpaper.

"You're going to lie down here and I'll carry you."

"You mean... like a baby?" I was shocked now.

"Yeah, on my back. It's only rational."

I slipped my sandals on my feet and shook my fist. "I can walk by myself. I don't need to be hauled! And when did you care about being rational?"

"You said yourself that your feet hurt!"

"When?" I demanded. I didn't remember saying anything of the sort. True, they did hurt, but I wasn't about to let him on. It's an unspoken law that doctors don't feel pain. Just like we aren't supposed to get sick or show queasiness. Truthfully, I was feeling all three.

Sanosuke pointed at the blanket. "You walk like you're hurting. Plus, you said it in your sleep!"

"I most certainly..." I stopped. "Why were you listening to me when I was sleeping?"

"There isn't anything else to listen to when you're stuck in a hole with one other person!" he snapped back. "We don't have time to argue. Either you stick to your promise and get on this blanket now, or I'm coming over there and forcing you on here."

The authoritative tone of voice startled me. I think it also startled him, because as soon as he said it, a smile slinked over his face. I was also amused and had to shake my head to keep from laughing. I walked over next to him and tried to keep a straight face. "Fine. Only because I promised."

"Good. Now jump on my back."

"What?!"

He pulled the blanket so it was in both hands behind his back. It looked like a cape. "I said, jump on my back. It's less strain on both of us this way."

Cursing the heavens for my misfortune, I slid on and straddled his waist. I had to hike the kimono up a bit to get my legs around there. I never felt so embarrassed in my life. I was about to say something when he pulled his arms up and threw the corners of the blanket over his shoulders. I was hanging in midair until he caught it and the underside of the blanket rested snugly underneath me.

Wow.

Sanosuke finished by tying the corners in a knot right in front of his abdomen. I still clung around his neck like a child until he said that it was okay to let go just a little bit. I obeyed, then found the blanket was just like a seat. Might I say, it was very comfortable because I had support for my back as well. It still did nothing to ease the fact that my legs...

"Don't even think those thoughts," I ordered.

I heard a laugh, and his back shook a little. "I wouldn't dream of it."

Fact is, I didn't really care all that much. There was no one in sight for miles around, I couldn't be seen. I didn't have to wear those shoes anymore, and my elevated perch made me the same height as Sanosuke. I could see things a bit better than when I was on the ground. An added bonus was that I could hit him more easily if the situation called for it.

"Where are we going?" I asked.

He glanced around, and the back of his bandana tickled me in the face. The sun was already touching the horizon; it wouldn't be long until the infamous desert cold settled in. "Well, as far as we can go before the sun gets hot again." He started to walk. I must have ignored the comment because once it sunk in, it hit me like a sand wall.

Is he talking about the next day?!

"No way." I refused to think about that. "What about the cold?"

"You're perfectly fine in that blanket."

"I wasn't thinking about me, I was talking about you."

Sanosuke shrugged. "As long as I keep moving, I should be fine, right? And you're pretty warm yourself, so don't worry about me."

I felt myself getting red. Maybe that was another reason why he's carrying me: he needed my body warmth. Smart, I had to admit. I had to give him credit for coming up with the idea. "Seems that there's more in that head than squashed flies."

"Heh. Thanks for the compliment."

Since when did Sanosuke act so in command? This was an incredibly wild experience, but I didn't think that he was capable of... well, being this way. Of being "rational". The ache in my stomach grew stronger.

"Hey," I wrapped my arms around his neck tighter, "Do you think we're going to die out here?"

Sano paused, before mumbling, "Don't talk crazy talk, fox."

"I mean it though."

Not that the thought of dying scared me...

Okay, I lied: Dying scared the shit out of me, if you could pardon my temporary unladylike ineloquence. How many nights have I patched up others, saved them from the brink?

But who would save me?

I chuckled against the back of his neck. Sanosuke's hair fluttered, and I could feel sand fall into my own hair. Didn't bother to brush it out. "Promise me we won't die out here, Sano."

He didn't say anything.

"Promise me, you silly rooster." My muscles shuddered in a vain effort to keep warm.

Comfort me, say something, anything to give me hope.

"Fox, "he started. "I'm not going to let you die out here. You're going to make it through this, even if it's the last thing I do."

"I certainly hope that me on your back won't be the last thing you do."

"I'd rather have you on my front."

It must have been the lack of water that made me giggle at the lewd innuendo.

Sanosuke continued. I could feel his Adam's apple bobbing up and down. "But seriously. I don't want your hands to be the last thing I see when I die."

"As if you have more attractive hands," I shot back.

He shook his head. "I didn't mean it in a mean way, Megumi." He stopped walking, and I now noticed how the once scorching colors of the desert were bathed in cool moonlight. When did night fall so quickly? "I meant, I'd rather see your face. So I'd have something to compare the angels to."

No words came to respond to the heartfelt compliment.

In fact, dizzy from blood and cold, I passed out.

*****

The next time I awoke, I found myself staring at an unfamiliar ceiling. Very unfamiliar.

Then I realized with a jolt that the desert had no ceiling.

White alabaster vaulted above me, complete with frescoes of snakes and flowers. Using my peripheral vision, I saw great marble pillars connected to each other with finely woven silks, all colors of the rainbow. This room was huge. I certainly couldn't be in a desert anymore; it was far too cool, temperature wise.

Tentatively, I sniffed the air. Vetyver. My eyes opened wider. Vetyver was an Asian herb used in aromatherapy.

Vetyver doesn't grow in deserts.

I let an expletive loose. Sanosuke would be proud of me.

But, where is he?

Feeling slightly groggy, I raised my head from whatever it rested on. I found it to be a cylindrical pillow with gold cords around the ends. The type of throw pillow one would have on a harem chair.

A harem chair?

Then I saw Sanosuke... lying down in between my legs.

He was face down, kissing my bare stomach. His hands caressed my waist and ran up my sides from my breasts to my knees. Sagara Sanosuke was naked.

All I could manage was a stutter, because my throat was so dry.

In response to my strangled noises, his head snapped up, eyes wide and panicked. "M-M-Meg... Megumi, wait! Wait! There's a perfectly rational explanation for all this!"

Found my voice.

I screamed.