A/N: This is just some nonsense that popped in my head awhile back. It set unfinished on my computer for quite some time, but I finally had bursts of inspiration that led me to finish it. There isn't much point to it, and it's not my best work, but maybe you'll like it anyway…
The Fortune Teller
A fiery blue-tinged vein of lightning split across the murky evening sky. A mere couple of seconds was all it took for a loud clap of thunder to follow in its wake. Instinctively, Fran gripped her employer's forearm and released a surprised "Oy!"
"Perhaps we should gather the children and head home," Maxwell suggested as he surveyed the rapidly darkening horizon.
"We should've done that hours ago," C.C. grumbled under her breath.
Fran rolled her eyes, but Niles was actually inclined to agree with C.C. He wasn't certain how Fran could consider an entire day of schlepping around the Coney Island amusement park in the humid summer heat to be fun, but he suspected that the endless array of greasy and sugary carnival food had a great deal to do with it.
"Oh, wait, look!" Fran shrieked, squeezing Maxwell's arm as she pointed into the distance. "A fortune teller! Please, can we go?"
A chorus of protests erupted immediately from both Niles and C.C. Before Maxwell had any chance to object, however, Fran seductively pressed her body against his.
"Please?" she repeated with a slight pout of her rouge lips.
"Oh, alright," he gave in at last, lured by her feminine persuasions. "But only for a moment…"
"No. I'm not going to see some crackpot fortune teller," C.C. snapped, folding her arms threateningly before her.
"You're not scared, are ya, Miss Babcock?" Fran asked.
"Of course not. I-"
"Good," Fran cut her off, "because there's nothin' to be afraid of."
"Hmm, I don't know," Niles chimed in. "Her reflection in a crystal ball would be scary enough for me."
C.C. turned sharply to him with a fierce glare.
"You know, Niles, you can take that crystal ball and shove it up your-"
"That's enough!" Maxwell shouted, heat rising in his cheeks. "Honestly, you two are worse than the children! Now, we're all going, and that's that."
Niles had the distinct feeling that Maxwell's demanding that they all go was his way of ensuring that if he had to suffer, then they would all suffer together. C.C. frowned, not at all appreciative of being spoken to as if she were a mere child.
As soon as they entered the dim, vapor-clouded room through an elaborately beaded curtain, the smell of incense and cheap wine teased their senses and left C.C. in particular feeling somewhat light-headed.
"Come in, my dears!" came a hushed female voice from across the room.
All but Fran, who appeared to be used to these types of things, jolted with surprise. A tiny light appeared suddenly in the direction of the voice, and when their eyes had adjusted to the darkness surrounding them, they realized that the light was the small flame of a matchstick. The fortune teller carefully, methodologically lit the scattered columns of candlesticks before turning to face her new clients.
"Have a seat!" she urged, indicating the group of chairs surrounding her circular table.
Fran led the way to be seated as the others followed tentatively behind. When everyone else had sat down, the woman moved to the head of the table to join them.
"I am Madam Estrella," she introduced herself as she sat down and placed her crystal ball before her.
C.C. resisted another urge to roll her eyes but found herself equally intrigued.
"Now, who wants to go first?" the fortune teller asked, peering at the group with a crooked, expectant smile on her wrinkled face.
"Ooh, me!" Fran exclaimed, flailing her hand about in the air.
Madam Estrella nodded and gazed into her crystal ball with a distant look clouding her eyes.
"Ah, I see the one you love running…"
"Yeah, from commitment!" she offered, honking out a laugh.
Maxwell frowned and looked distinctly uncomfortable.
"But you must remember, dear, that slow and steady wins the race…"
"Ha! If things went any slower, honey, we'd be time-travelin' back to the Stone Age. I'm lookin' for ways to speed things up, if ya know what I mean."
"Patience, my dear, patience."
"You," Madam Estrella urged, quickly turning to C.C. and ignoring Fran's whining protest. "Give me your hand."
C.C. widened her eyes suspiciously as she hesitantly extended her open palm to the fortune teller. A shiver ran up C.C.'s arm as Madam Estrella slid her chilled fingers down her palm and began tracing the faint lines there.
"There is much more to you than meets the eye, I see… but don't wait too long, dearie, or you'll end up losing him."
C.C., captivated and set ill-at-ease by the fortune teller's words, only vaguely heard Fran say "Him? Who's 'him'?" as she slowly, silently pulled her hand away.
"Remember, you can only have so many second chances," Madam Estrella went on. "And matters of the heart aren't to be dealt with lightly."
C.C. suddenly thought back to Niles' heart attack. Had she wasted her second chance then? She didn't like feeling that Madam Estrella seemed as though she could see straight to her soul.
"The ice queen has a heart?" Niles scoffed, more loudly than necessary. "That's a laugh!"
The smirk on his face was completely wiped away, however, as Madam Estrella glared then in his direction.
"Birds are entangled by their feet and men by their tongues," she warned. "What takes a moment to break may take years to mend."
Niles felt his mouth go dry as Madame Estrella shot a quick glance to where C.C. sat beside him.
"Are we paying for a fortune teller or a talking fortune cookie?" Fran complained.
Outside, a flash of lightening flashed and a clap of thunder boomed louder than before.
"I think we should go," Maxwell stated, rising from his chair before anyone could suggest that he hadn't had his own fortune foretold yet.
To everyone's surprise, Fran did not object. Rather, she stood as well and followed Maxwell to the beaded curtain entrance after he had dropped some cash onto the table for Madame Estrella. Niles and C.C., though likely the most eager to leave, were hesitant to follow suit.
"Are ya comin' or what?" Fran called to the beguiled two.
They nodded and stood slowly, eager to get away but strangely drawn by a desire to hear more. When they too had reached the beaded curtain, they turned back to Madame Estrella once more.
"Remember, dears: what you're searching for is within arm's reach."
Rain poured in heavy droplets; no one had thought to bring an umbrella. Thankfully, Maxwell and Fran had already found the children, so they could all finally head to the car for shelter.
Niles, meanwhile, found the raindrops collecting on C.C.'s lips and eyelashes enticing, and she could not help but notice his stare.
"Go ahead and say it," she told him, her voice, quite like her emotions, still unsteady from the haunting words of Madame Estrella.
"Say what?" he asked, somewhat taken aback by the sudden, slight haughtiness that underlay the tone of her voice.
"That I should be careful in this rain, since witches have the tendency to melt. I know that's what you were thinking."
Niles opened his mouth to retort but closed it again when he had thought better of it. The truth was, he should have been thinking of such a thing, perhaps, but insult was the farthest thing from his mind… He shook his head.
"That's not what I was thinking," he told her honestly.
"Then what?" she asked, raising an eyebrow at him. "This should be good."
"That you look truly lovely, Miss Babcock."
Before she could reply, he began walking faster to catch up with Maxwell and the rest of the group. Fran, however, fell back so that she could walk beside her.
"You were right about Madame Estrella being a crackpot," Fran complained to C.C. "If she's psychic, then I'm the Queen of England. Whata waste a' money that was!"
"Yeah, definitely a crackpot," C.C. repeated emotionlessly.
She kept her eyes on the ground as she walked, deep in thought and hoping that Fran would assume that her flushed cheeks were merely a result of the heavily falling rain…