Disclaimer: The gorgeous blond is not mine. Phooey.

Summary: It's really sweaty working out on the range in the hot California sun.

SWEAT

by White Wolf

Scott Lancer stood up, placed both palms against his lower back and arched it in an attempt to stretch out and loosen the muscles that had bunched up into what felt to him like huge knots, as he pounded the fence posts into holes he had dug in the hard ground.

Scott's sweat-soaked shirt was open all the way to his belt, his shirt sleeves rolled up past his elbows. Neither effort had helped much.

Straightening, he pulled a handkerchief out of his back pocket. Using it to wipe the sweat from his face, he caught a large drop just before it rolled off the end of his nose. He then rubbed the bright, red fabric over his neck, chest and bare arms. It only helped momentarily before more sweat showed up to replaced what was now on the limp cloth in his hand.

It was never pleasant having to repair a downed section of fence line in the high summer of the San Joaquin Valley. It hadn't taken Scott long to figure than one out. This day, however, felt hotter than any he had experienced since coming to Lancer three years before.

If he hadn't known better, Scott would have thought he was immersed in a heated pool, so thick and suffocating was the air that surrounded him.

Realizing that he couldn't continue like he was and hope to get very far without resting and putting moisture back into his fluid-starved body, the blond signed and headed for his canteen and the shade of the nearest tree.

The eldest Lancer son sat down and uncorked the canteen. He took several long pulls from the container, savoring the quenching water, warm though it was. He was tempted to pour the entire contents over his head in hopes that perhaps a breeze would decide to blow through. But, he knew this water had to be conserved, since he still had several hours of work left to complete, and the spare canteen he carried was needed for the horses. Even knowing that he required the life-giving liquid to sustain himself, he also knew it would eventually just provide more sweat to cover his overheated skin. He understood that sweating was important, but too much could be dangerous.

After removing his hat and setting it on the ground next to him, Scott swept his wet hair off of his forehead. With a weary sigh, he leaned his aching shoulders back against the sturdy tree trunk behind him. He wondered idly if he'd ever be able to get up again.

He looked out across the small valley below him. This part of the southern pasture was at the top of the tallest hill at the end of a series of smaller rises. The uneven ground had added to the difficulty of the job and along with the oppressing heat, was responsible for the sapping of the young man's normally ample strength.

"I never sweat like this in Boston," he grumbled aloud to himself.

Scott almost laughed to think what his grandfather would say if he could see him now, sweating like what the elderly man referred to as a common laborer. "Well, Grandfather, by your standards, these days that is exactly what I am." This time Scott did laugh.

Even sitting absolutely still in the shade of the big tree did nothing to stop the sweat from rolling down the blond's back, tickling him, as it made its way down to the waistband of his pants.

Right then, he felt that even after spending the rest of his life here in California, his eyes would never fully get used to the searing sunshine of a hot, cloudless day. It was the same sun that shone down on Boston, but he guessed the endless blue sky, unbroken by the numerous buildings that inhabited the big city was what made the difference.

As for the much cooler temperatures of his youth, Boston had sea breezes, while Lancer lay in the midst of a huge valley, mostly surrounded by mountains. He wouldn't give anything to switch places, but he sure would love to feel one of those sea breezes right about now.

With the air current where he was apparently dead, Scott tried to cool himself by waving his handkerchief back and forth in front of him, hoping the wet cloth would offer a small respite, but it did nothing more than sling droplets at him, adding old sweat to new. Waving his hat only moved the heated air around.

He closed his eyes and resigned himself to defeat. Getting cool here and now seemed to be a hope that had shriveled up and blown away, if there had been any wind to carry it, he mused.

Scott had no idea how long he had been sitting under the tree, when he was roused by the insistent buzzing of a large fly. It seemed to be trying to tell him that he needed to get up and get back to work. He waved the pesky insect away from his ear and reluctantly got to his feet. Looking at the position of the sun, he guessed that he had been dozing no more than half an hour.

Replacing his hat, Scott made his way back out into the blazing sunshine and the sweat-producing job that was awaiting him there.

The End