The characters of Xena and Gabrielle belong to MCA/Universal and no copyright infringement is intended.


This story is subtext-based, but there are no graphic scenes of ... well, of anything really!


Somewhere in ancient Greece or the known world of the day, where else? Written purely for fun, the story revolves around a very old joke concerning a fortune-teller.




Future Imperfect?

By Red Raven

(Copyright May 2000)




The bazaar tent was dim as Gabrielle entered and walked over to small a round table. It became dimmer as Xena followed her in and lowered the tent flap.

"Oi! I only do one at a time!" A veiled, old woman addressed Xena gruffly from where she sat at the table, cradling a large orb of pale yellow crystal.

"Don’t worry." Xena side-stepped into the shadows. "It’s not me who’s chasing visions of the future."

"Well, maybe you should be, judging by your profession!" The fortune-teller jabbed a finger in Xena’s direction. "Warriors aren’t exactly renowned for their longevity, you know. Don’t you want a vision of who to keep your back turned away from?"

"Just about the whole known world and his wife, probably." Xena commented dryly. "No thanks… I’m fine. Just waiting for my friend, here."

Gabrielle looked over her shoulder. "Friend, huh?" She gave Xena a hard stare, receiving a shrug and a cock-eyed grin in response.

"Is she your friend?" The fortune-teller asked Gabrielle.

Gabrielle didn’t hear the fortune-teller’s question. She was intent on out-staring Xena, though her glare was rapidly collapsing into a smile.

The old woman rapped the table. "Well?"

"Excuse me?" Gabrielle turned back to face her.

"The warrior there." The old woman nodded to where Xena leaned against a tent pole. "Is she or isn’t she?"

"Is she or isn’t she…? Ya know, a lot of people ask that very same question." Gabrielle took the empty seat and leaned on the table. "The leather… the strength and athleticism… the way she thinks the best way to a man’s heart is through his rib cage with six spans of steel… not to mention how she never rides side-saddle…"

"Oh Hades, take me now!" Xena raised her eyes to the tent roof and shook her head.

"Actually, I don’t know what or who she is. I’ve never seen her before in my life. She just followed me into the tent!" Gabrielle grinned to herself, feeling suitably avenged, and glanced at the fortune-teller. "No, I’m kidding really… Yes, the warrior’s a friend of mine. A good friend. A really good, close friend. Actually, she’s more of a…"

"Do you want your fortune read or not?" The fortune-teller rested an elbow on the table and cupped her chin in her hand. "You’re slowing my business."

Xena craned her neck and peeked through the tent flap. "Isn’t exactly a queue waiting to get in here."

"Oh it’ll be here soon enough, warrior. I have the sight, you know… unless you doubt my ability?"

"Well, since you ask…"

"Xena!" Gabrielle offered an apologetic grin to the fortune-teller. "I’m sorry. Yes, I do want to look into the future. Not too far though, just the next few weeks or so. Xena and I are on a long journey and…"

"Life!" The old woman stated loudly. "Is one long journey." She waved one hand in a grandiose gesture and lovingly caressed the crystal ball with the other. "You can’t dictate what part of your future will be revealed as the mists depart. You can merely welcome the vision with joy or caution."

"Oh Charon’s barnacles!" Xena mumbled under her breath.

Gabrielle tried to keep a straight face and dropped her eyes to the crystal. "So, do you think the mists might clear for me?"

The fortune-teller took a deep breath, closed her eyes and raised her hands. "I feel a great warmth here… the crystal favours you." She lowered her hands to the table and smiled pleasantly through her veil, revealing the loss of at least three teeth. "Two dinars and you will be rewarded with a reading."

Gabrielle opened her mouth to suggest one dinar, but decided against haggling, even when she caught Xena’s mumbled comments regarding extortion and daylight robbery. The money parted with, Gabrielle sat back in her chair to listen to the fortune-teller.

The old woman cupped her hands around the crystal orb, closed her eyes and breathed deeply several times before gazing into the ball. "I can see you’ve had many adventures… mostly with the warrior over there."

Gabrielle grinned over her shoulder to Xena. ‘See!’ She mouthed silently.

Xena raised an eyebrow, unimpressed with the comment anyone could have accurately made.

"Wait! I see danger ahead!"

Gabrielle turned back quickly and even Xena became more attentive.

"I see… I see… a blade at your throat! A man’s hands restraining you. You are a prisoner!"

Xena coughed quietly. "That sounds familiar… happens about once every quarter moon!"

"Shhh!" Gabrielle hissed over her shoulder, then turned back to the table. "What else?"

"Let me see now… ah, yes. A twisted ankle… a sharp sudden pain to your shoulder and… oh, such fever!" The old woman gasped. "Burning, terrible burning… poison! And many, many soldiers surround you and the warrior!"

Gabrielle sat back suddenly and gazed quizzically at the fortune-teller.

Xena stroked her chin. "Uh… we heading for a repeat performance with the Persians, d’ya think?" She whispered.

Gabrielle looked over to Xena, opened her mouth to say something, but decided not to. "What else do you see?" She swung back to the fortune-teller.

"I see… the warrior in chains. Oh, she is in a brutal prison, surrounded by water. Yet… you will be her liberator!"

Gabrielle looked over her shoulder and frowned as she whispered. "That sounds like Shark Island, but… Xena, that was ages ago!"

Xena tilted her head to one side and shrugged.

Gabrielle turned slowly back to the table. "Um… anything else familiar in there?" She laughed suddenly. "I mean, can you see anything about the end of our journey… will we arrive safely?"

"Your journey…" The old woman took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. "Is an arduous journey… and will take you far across the great waters, to an exotic and spiritual land." The old woman looked up and smiled. "You and the warrior both seek a noble purpose… you may find it there."

Gabrielle frowned. "You don’t mean India, do you? You’re talking about India, right?"

"Yes…" The fortune-teller drew closer to the crystal orb. "It is indeed India."

"Funny…" Xena spoke, just loud enough to be heard. "Didn’t realise Cleopatra’s moved from one continent to another!"

"That is a bit odd…" Gabrielle addressed the fortune-teller. "We’re actually heading to Egypt to see some friends there. We travelled to India some time ago."

"The crystal never lies!" The old woman raised a hand dramatically.

"It may never lie…" Xena stepped forward to stand behind Gabrielle. "But it’s definitely mistaken this time."

"We really are on our way to Egypt." Gabrielle smiled at the fortune-teller. "India was wonderful, but we don’t intend to go back there."

The fortune-teller leaned back in her chair. "What… never?"

"Never." Xena and Gabrielle both chorused.

"In fact…" Xena continued. "Everything you’ve told Gabrielle today has actually already happened."

"What… everything?" The old woman looked from Xena to Gabrielle and back again.

Xena and Gabrielle both nodded. "Everything."

The fortune-teller leaned forward and peered deep into the pale yellow stone. "What about an evil blond warrior who brings you trouble?"

"A woman in black leathers?" Gabrielle queried.

"Could be… yes!"

"Callisto." Xena yawned.

The fortune-teller gasped. "You will aid the King of Ithaca!"

"By the gods, that was a long time ago!" Gabrielle looked up at Xena.

"And from that event, it will be revealed who you truly love."

Xena squeezed Gabrielle’s shoulders. "Well, it was the first step, at least!"

"I was still too slow, though." Gabrielle grinned, then elbowed Xena in the ribs. "So were you!" She leaned across the table. "I’m sorry, I don’t think this is working…"

"Another long and strange journey." The fortune-teller was engrossed in her crystal ball. "China!"

"Oh boy!" Xena closed her eyes and shook her head.

"Look, this is all wrong!" Gabrielle caught the old woman’s attention. "This isn’t the future… most of it isn’t even recent!"

"What do you mean… not even recent?" The fortune-teller was indignant.

"It’s true." Xena spoke quietly. "All these events, the adventures, the trips to China and India… my imprisonment, Gabrielle’s twisted ankle and the poison from an arrow … it’s history!"

"All of it?" The fortune-teller sat back in her chair again.

"All of it." Gabrielle nodded.

"Ugh… not again!" The old woman reached for the crystal ball and picked it up, shook it a few times and held it to her ear, much to the amusement of Xena and Gabrielle. After a few moments she returned the orb to the table. "Damned thing’s stopped again!"

Xena and Gabrielle exchanged glances and turned back to the fortune-teller.

"I told that merchant I didn’t want no foreign rubbish! Babylonian crystal… that’s the best! I told ‘im." The old woman sighed heavily and cursed under her breath. "That’s the third time, in as many moons!"

"Well then…" Gabrielle rose from her chair and smiled apologetically. "I guess we should be going, really."

"S’pose you want your money back now?" The disgruntled fortune-teller reached into her pocket.

"Naah, keep it." Xena grinned. "It’s been… entertaining, if nothing else." She nodded to the old woman and linked a finger beneath Gabrielle’s belt, making sure she followed her out of the tent.

Gabrielle just had time to raise a hand in farewell. "Bye! Thanks for trying!"

As warrior and bard stepped outside into the fresh air, Argo nickered in greeting, from where she was tethered.

"Hi girl!" Xena strode over to her horse and ran her hand across her mane. Gabrielle turned to walk away, wanting to have a look at some of the market stalls, but felt her shoulder suddenly tapped by Xena. "And where d’ya think you’re off to?"

Gabrielle looked back and smiled. "Well, it’s late afternoon, Xena. I thought I’d get us a little bread and cheese to go with the broth I’ll make."

"Wait a minute…" Xena leaned over and grabbed Gabrielle’s right hand, bringing it close to her eyes. "Hmmm… now, let me see. Life-line looking good… heart-line in excellent shape." She looked up and grinned. "Let’s see if there’s anything really interesting here… Oh, now that’s exciting!"

"What? So now palmistry’s one of your many skills huh, warrior?" Gabrielle laughed. "C’mon then… what do you see?"

"I see… I see…" Xena lowered her voice dramatically. "You are going to dine with a tall dark…"


"Possibly." Xena raised an eyebrow.


"Oh, definitely." Xena nodded.


"Far from it." Xena grinned. "And you’ll meet this person in one more candle mark at The Boar’s Head Tavern, where a good meal and a comfortable room with a hot bath have already been pre-paid for."

"Sounds wonderful." Gabrielle caught and held Xena’s eyes with a steady gaze. "And will this tall dark, blue-eyed and very beautiful person intend to be… intimate with me?"

Xena smiled slowly and lifted Gabrielle’s hand to her eyes once more. "I do believe that there’s an extremely good chance of that happening." She kissed Gabrielle’s palm lightly.

"Can’t wait!" Gabrielle closed her fingers and clasped the warrior’s hand. "So what do we do until then?"

"Well, I need to get Argo stabled for the night, and make sure she’s fed and watered. You can browse for a while in the market, but…" Xena trailed off.

"What?" Gabrielle tilted her head to one side.

"I was just going to say, try to stay outta trouble… you know, people coming up behind you… blades to the throat, that kind of thing?"

Gabrielle responded with a look of exasperation and rested her fists on her hips.

"Okay, okay!" Xena held up her hands. "Just be careful, alright?"

"Always." Gabrielle smirked as she turned on her heel to head for the market stalls. "The Boar’s Head Tavern, one candle mark. I’ll dance for you in our room, if you like." She didn’t wait for an answer before quickly walking away.

"Oh yeah… I’d like that." Xena grinned as she watched Gabrielle disappear amongst the villagers and merchants. "I’d like that very much." She turned to Argo, loosened her reigns from where they were tied and led the horse away towards the stables. "Ya know, girl… sometimes you don’t need anyone to tell you your future. You just know it’s gonna be perfect, when it’s shared with someone special.