"What do you find sexy?"
The question came out of nowhere and almost caused Xena to choke. They were at a sold-out performance of Lysistrata, waiting for the production to begin. Packed into the bleacher seats of the amphitheater in Athens without a breath of space between them, Xena had already been devising gruesome deaths for the man next to her. It was obvious he never bathed or changed his clothing. At least, Xena suspected that the soiled and stained cloth that covered him were once clothes. He was a large man, with a rather sweet face that didn't earn him any points in the warrior's book.
"I find it difficult to discuss that right now," Xena said between clenched teeth as the man to her left belched loudly.
"I'm trying to get your mind off him," said Gabrielle, conspiratorially. "Figured this topic might get your attention, y'know?"
"I could give you a long list of what I don't find sexy right now," said Xena squeezing just a little closer to Gabrielle then sighing in exasperation as the man instantly stole that extra inch of space for himself.
"C'mon, Xena. We still have quite a wait for the play to start. Our seats are third row, center, the moon is full, the stars are bright; we're in Athens! I think a starry sky is sexy. Your turn."
The sudden odor of rotten eggs surrounded Xena and she stood abruptly, glaring at the man. "That does it. Move."
"Huh?" he said, glancing around.
"I said 'move.' Change seats. Go elsewhere."
"I beg your pardon! I will not."
With lightning speed, Xena hit several pressure points, causing the man to gasp, his face turning bright pink. Smiling sweetly, Xena said, "You've got thirty seconds to decide to find a new seat."
"You... you're insane!" he gasped.
"Xena! You can't put the pinch on someone because of theatre seats!" said Gabrielle, panic in her voice.
"Can and did," Xena said, her eyes never wavering from the man. "Fifteen seconds. Better hurry."
"S... sold out..." he gasped.
"Ten seconds," said Xena, still smiling.
"Okay! Okay, I'll move!" he said, a trickle of blood coming out his nose.
Quickly, Xena released the pressure points. The man glared at her as she took back her seat. He looked around the packed amphitheater and whimpered. "There're no open seats anywhere!"
"Try up there," said Xena, pointing to a couple of open spaces that were so high he'd never stop his nose from bleeding.
"Those are the goon seats! This is the first time a woman is going to be on stage. This is history in the making! I ordered this ticket ages ago!" he said, self-righteously. The announcement that a female was going to play the role of Lysistrata, as opposed to the usual male actor in drag, had swept the nation. Even Xena and Gabrielle had hightailed it to Athens to be a part of this unusual event. The man looked at Xena with huge, puppydog eyes. "I wanted to see Aeschia up close. I've got a thing for her," he said, blushing.
"Yeah? Well so do I," said Xena, dangerously. "And I don't want to have to smell you while I look at her."
"By the gods, I can't get away from you people," he grumbled.
Xena was on her feet, her sword drawn within seconds. "And what exactly kinda 'people' am I?"
"You can't hide it from me! You're one of those warrior types! Always lording it over us merchants like we were dirt beneath your boots. Sure, I wear sandals. Sure, I trade for dinars. Does that make me less of a person?"
"What do you sell?" asked Gabrielle with an interested smile as Xena sheepishly put away her sword.
"Parchments. Quills. General bardic supplies. Biggest store in Athens!"
"You're not Crazy Craetonous, are you?"
"I am," he said proudly.
"Xena -- let him stay. He's Crazy Craetonous. His store is amazing. And he might be inclined to give me a bargain if you don't kill him," said Gabrielle with pleading eyes.
"What do you think of a 20% discount, Sweet Thing?" he said, smiling at Gabrielle, his teeth yellowed and cracked.
"Xena?" Gabrielle pleaded.
"Then *you* sit next to him," said Xena, trading seats with Gabrielle.
"So, you're interested in bardic supplies, eh?" said Craetonous genially. "You a 'teller?"
"A what?" Gabrielle discreetly rubbed her nose as his scent surrounded her. Xena just grinned.
"A 'teller. Storyteller. Bard. Chosen of the Muse. It's trade talk."
"Ah. Yes, I'm a bard. Gabrielle of Poteidaia," she said, holding out her hand. He took her hand, shaking it happily. The bard attempted to be discreet as she wiped his sweat from her palm afterwards.
"The scent of lilacs," whispered Xena in Gabrielle's ear.
"What?" she asked, turning back to Xena, confused.
"They're sexy. Lilacs. Sweet and innocent, yet fragrant and full of passion. Love the smell of lilacs. White, purple, fresh, aromatic, growing wild and free, spreading their gift on the breeze."
"No kidding..." whispered Gabrielle, blinking rapidly.
"Want a sausage?" asked Craetonous.
"Mmmm?" asked Gabrielle, falling into Xena's eyes.
"A sausage. My sister makes them. Lotsa garlic, secret spices. They tend to get musical an hour later, but the joy is in the eating."
"No thank you," said Gabrielle, pushing away the large hand which held out a giant, greasy sausage only inches from her nose.
"Your loss," he said, biting lustily into the meat.
"Uh... my turn... right..." said Gabrielle, swallowing quickly. A glance around told her that the other theatre-goers in the vicinity were also being treated to the aroma of Craetonous' meal. "Um... leather. Leather is sexy."
Xena leaned over until her lips were millimeters from Gabrielle's ear, her breath tickling the fine hairs behind the lobe. "Do tell..."
Gabrielle closed her eyes, her body reacting to the warrior's closeness. "It's... the feel of it under my hands, knowing your flesh is just beneath... the smell of it..."
"Smell getting to you?" said Craetonous, leaning toward Gabrielle, his breath an explosion of sausage in her face. "They're pungent all right! I knew you'd change your mind. Here," he said, again offering her one of the fat, white sausages.
"No, thanks, really. I'm not hungry," said Gabrielle, attempting a polite smile.
"Breasts," whispered Xena.
"Whahuh?" asked Gabrielle, almost weeping as she shifted her attention away from the dangerous meat product looming inches from her nostrils.
"Breasts are sexy," said Xena. "Soft yet firm. The weight of them in your palm. The taste of them. The tantalizing puckering of a nipple brought into vibrant life..."
"Oh gods," whimpered Gabrielle.
Craetonous sighed loudly as he squeezed off an elongated, whistling fart. "'Oh gods' is right! Nothin' feels worse than when your bowels are in an uproar. I swear my sister does this to me on purpose. Ah well, there's plenty of ale here to wash it through." The man reached into his bag and removed a large bottle. He took a long pull then belched happily. "I think it's fabulous that a woman is being allowed on stage. That's progress. I'm a big supporter of women's equality, y'know. Some of the best bards out there are women and more power to 'em, I say!"
"That's wonderful," said Gabrielle with a shaky smile. She turned to Xena and softly said, "He's really a nice man, y'know. Just a little..."
"Yeah," said Gabrielle, holding her breath.
"I mean it, Miss. Really," said Craetonous, his cherubic face glowing with sincerity. He sniffed loudly, blew his nose into his hands then wiped them on his pants. "I'm sweet on the girl who works two shops down, but she doesn't know I exist. Got any advice for me?"
"Bathing," said Xena leaning across the bard.
"Ha!" he laughed. "That's a good one. Everyone knows bathing gives you foul diseases. No, really, I'm at my wit's end." Craetonous smiled, a large piece of sausage stuck between his teeth.
"You have... a... little..." Gabrielle said, picking at her own teeth to show him.
Craetonous dug at his teeth then smiled as he tasted his prize. "My sister is a great cook. She's engaged though, so I'm going to have to move soon." The bit of sausage appeared to stick in the back of his throat because he began hawking violently. Finally, he spat several times at the ground, hitting the side of Gabrielle's boot.
"Having fun with your new friend?" asked Xena, slipping her hand beneath Gabrielle's skirt and caressing her thigh.
"I... I... I..."
"I... I... I..."
"Hey look! Jugglers! By the gods, I hate jugglers," said Craetonous. He stood up, his generous posterior brushing Gabrielle's cheek as he shouted, "Screw the jugglers and let's see some women instead!" Several voices chimed in as the hapless juggler sped up his act.
"I think I'm going to be sick," said Gabrielle, trying to dodge the jiggling backside that swayed inches in front of her as Craetonous led the cheer for more women on stage.
"Your turn. What's sexy?" whispered Xena, working her fingers up Gabrielle's thigh.
"Uh... uh... the pinch!"
"What?" asked Xena, pulling her hand away.
"The pinch! When you use the pinch. In fact, I think I would be terminally turned on if you did the pinch again on Craetonous."
"I think you'd lose your parchment bargain. Besides, he's 'really a nice man, remember?"
"Yeah, well, in the name of scientific research into the true nature of what's sexy, I'd be willing to give up my bargain and my new friend. Please, Xena?"
"Why don't you go up there, Honey?" said Craetonous, pulling Gabrielle out of her seat and pointing to the stage. "Go up and show us your stuff. You'll be great!"
"You want her to do what?" asked Xena bolting to her feet.
Craetonous leaned away, almost sitting on the woman on his other side. Luckily, she had passed out several minutes earlier, and therefore didn't notice. "Uh... your friend here told me she was a bard. I thought she could tell some stories or something. Keep the crowd interested. She'd be the first... female... bard... to..." he trailed off at the look on Xena's face.
"Ohhh, I don't think so," said Gabrielle, folding herself into Xena's protective arms.
"Craetonous, I think maybe you and your sausages might have more fun up in the goon seats," said Xena, reasonably.
"Not this again!" he said.
"Oh yes, this again. You see, up there, you can shout and belch and eat and no one will mind. They're your kinda people. Down here, you'll be very quiet, because you're going to be too busy bleeding."
"Bleeding?" Craetonous asked, eyeing Xena's hand as she reached for her sword.
"Yeah. Bleeding. Your choice."
"You know..." said Craetonous, gathering his things, "if I'm too close to the stage I tend to get nauseous."
"Well, much as we're both going to miss watching yet another of your bodily functions, I think it would be best if you left."
"Me too," he said, stepping over the unconscious woman directly onto the feet of the man next to her. "Though I have to say, you two have been just a little on the rude side." Craetonous turned his back. "Pardon me, excuse me, pardon me," he said, a noxious trail of sausage music following him down the aisle.
Gabrielle sank back to the stone bench with a sigh. "Your imposing warrior thing? Now that is sexy," she said, snuggling close to Xena.
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