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by Filippa Morgan Flasheart
Joxer, the Mighty
Gabrielle, Bard of Poteidaia
Xena, Warrior Princess
Euphedria, head clerk of Aphrodite's Secret
Thanale, sales associate at Aphrodite's Secret
Philippa, a shopper
Summary: A little story I thought of, based on all the embarrassed guys I've seen shopping for lingerie. Sort of like "Bouncing Back." Enjoy! References: A Family Affair, Forget Me Not, Hooves and Harlots, Fins, Femmes and Gems. Rating: PG. Disclaimer: No gauzy revealing garments were harmed during the writing of this vignette.
A thousand scents, all of which reminded the lanky, armored young man of a certain blonde bard, met his nostrils as he stepped into the little shop off the agora in Thessaly. He set down his awkward, conical helmet at the door and inhaled deeply. Lavender, hyacinth, rose, sea foam, and best of all, the crisp, recognizable frangrance of daisies. They had always been Gabrielle's favorite.
But the pleasant sachet was about all that Joxer liked about this place. The rest of its ambience caused him to blush madly.
The entire store was awash in shades of pink, lavender and rosy red. It was about as feminine, well, about as feminine as its namesake, the capricious Goddess of Love herself. But a nice lady had told Joxer that no woman could resist a gift from Aphrodite's Secret, and so the would-be warrior had forced himself to check it out.
At least his reddened cheeks matched the decor, he thought grudgingly.
"Hello there. Is there anything I can help you with today?" A perky, high-pitched voice snapped Joxer out of his embarrassment.
He straightened himself and looked at the speaker, a woman a few years his junior with shiny golden hair clad in a brief, body-hugging shift. She was probably the same age as Gabrielle.
"Um, yeah. I, uh, was looking for a gift for my, er, girlfriend." The last word came out rushed and muted.
"Well, let me show you our specials today. I'm sure you can find something she'd like." The enthusiastic saleswoman strode off briskly and Joxer followed her, clanking at every step. Looking around hastily, he saw the mannequins draped in gauzes, silks and satins barely covering their lithe, slender forms. He tried to picture Gabrielle clad in each of them.
"We have this lovely item, guaranteed to make the most out of a girl's figure, and then some." Thanale, the young lady, handed Joxer a stretchy pink top similar to the bard's normal gear, except for the fact that it was much smaller and apparently tighter. Now that would be the number.
"Great! She might like that. How much is it?" He stroked the soft, yet strangely elastic, fabric.
"Fifty dinars, sir."
"Fifty dinars? Are you insane?"
Thanale shrugged and took back the garment, looking slightly hurt. "Well, the Amazons have the patent on this thing, and believe me, they demand high prices."
"Well, my girlfriend is the Amazon queen."
The ditzy salesgirl merely stared at Joxer blankly, then spoke. "That's...lovely." It was obvious that she didn't believe a word. "Now how about this?"
She picked up a short, silky camisole decorated with fine white plumes on top. "Maybe this would be better. It's great for daywear or eveningwear, and just feel how soft it is."
Joxer stroked it delicately, remembering the similar feel of Gabrielle's pink nightie that he had inadvertently donned while under Aphrodite's spell. No, she already had one, and besides...Gabby was a girl of action. No silks for her. He shook his head and put the camisole down.
"No?" Thanale shrugged again. "How about this?" It was a two-piece, satiny pale green outfit, strapless on top with a matching pantelet on the bottom. "This is perfect if your girlfriend is constantly on the go. It's flexible, and breathes with her. It was tested for us by Atalanta herself."
He instantly imagined Gabrielle's supple form clad only in the garments before him, and this time his heart raced faster and faster with the pleasant imagery.
"Yeah, I think that's what I'm looking for. She'll love it." He smiled, a big, goofy grin.
"Very good, then. Which size is she?"
"Um, let me think," he said, and closed his eyes to visualize Gabrielle's body, taking into account the fact that certain parts were always bigger in his mind than in reality. "She's probably a medium size."
"All right. Let me get a nice box for her, then. Euphydria will be happy to help you."
Joxer crossed the gallery of lingirie, trying his best to blend in. He ran right into a tall, elegant woman and almost dropped Gabrielle's present.
"I'm sorry, I ran right into you!" he blurted, bowing awkwardly to his fellow shopper.
"No problem. Is that a gift for your wife?" she asked in her melodious voice.
"Ah, kind of. She's not my wife...yet."
"Well, she will be soon if you keep charming her with gifts like this." The tall woman winked at Joxer and went on her way.
The sales counter was bedecked with perfumes in colored bottles, silver and gold jewelry of all sorts, and exotic silken scarves and sashes. Joxer set down his purchase and looked around nervously for Euphydria. He didn't want to be in here any longer than he had to be.
"How was everything for you?" Her voice startled him, and he jumped in surprise. Euphydria, an older, but still beautiful, woman, stood at the counter and smiled gently at Joxer.
"Uh, fine. This is a really nice place." He tried to make his lie sound convincing.
"That'll be thirty-five dinars, please." She seemed convinced, and continued to smile.
Joxer handed her the last of his spending money. New lute strings and bootlaces were just going to have to wait.
"Here you are," she chimed, taking the extravagantly wrapped pink bundle from Thanale. "Please come back soon."
"Only if I have to," mumbled Joxer under his breath. Gabrielle had better like this gift. It had caused him enough humilation for one day.
"Another cider, please." Gabrielle beckoned to the serving woman as she stepped through the bustling crowd at the tavern. The wench looked slightly annoyed as she made her way behind the bar for more drinks. "Xena, I'm tired of waiting. When is Joxer going to get here?"
"Soon enough. He's not usually late." The Warrior Princess almost yawned as she quaffed her own mug of ale. "Remember, that agora is pretty crowded."
"He said he was going to buy more lute strings. How long could that possibly take?" The bard picked up the full mug set before her and drank deeply.
"Speak of Cerberus..." Xena murmured.
Joxer's tall, lanky figure was unmistakable even across the busy barroom. He scanned the crowd and waved in recognition of his friends. Amazingly, he didn't stumble as he picked his way through the throng and plopped down at Xena and Gabrielle's table.
"Boy, am I glad to see you two. It's so busy out there," he huffed, motioning to the same serving girl. She didn't see him, and he frowned. "What does a guy have to do to get a drink?"
"Apparently, he has to use force," the bard joked. "What's that you've got?" She pointed to the gaudy pink package he had carried in and was now unsuccessfully trying to hide.
Xena interrupted suddenly. "I'll be right back. Nature's calling." She got up quickly left the two friends alone.
"What's with her?" Gabrielle stared after the warrior. "Oh well, when nature calls, it screams."
"This is for you," Joxer mumbled, blushing furiously. He pushed the gift toward his lady love. "Hope you like it."
"Joxer! You didn't have to," she said fondly. Her expression of joy turned to chagrin as she beheld the contents of the box.
"You like it? I saw it, and well, it was just so, so you." Joxer grinned boyishly.
"Joxer," the young bard growled, a trace of sarcasm creeping into her voice, "you've got to start buying me gifts with your brain, not certain other parts of your body."
"Oh, c'mon, Gabby, I thoughy you'd li....yowwwwww!" His thought was unfinished as she quickly grabbed his nose and twisted painfully.
She let go and let him rub it gratefully. Sadly she looked at her new garments again. Yes, they were fine quality, and looked comfortable, but Joxer had bought them for her, and chanced were he wanted to see her wear them.
"I'm sorry, Joxer. I shouldn't have reacted like that. It's just, well, maybe I can wear them underneath my clothes."
"Yeah. After all, they do chafe a little when I swing my staff, and these look so soft."
"Aw, gee, Gabby..."
She kissed him lightly on the cheek, and he knew that all his troubles had been worth it. Thank you very much once again, Aphrodite.
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