if I could put Time in a bottle

A rule of their game is that he brings her alcohol. She always knows where it comes from.

"Really," he says, white-haired and disapproving as she clutches her forehead the next morning, "you didn't have to drink that much."

"Oh yes I did," she counters, and her fingers stroke the curve of the bottle affectionately.

A rule of their game is that she serves him tea, and he has to guess where it comes from.

"This is a courtesy, you understand," she says as she offers him the cup. Always the same words, always the same careful explanation that he doesn't owe her anything for it.

He smiles (he's blond this time, and young, and sweet-faced and charming and lively and maybe even happy) and raises the cup to his lips, and guesses, and gets it wrong.

She doesn't even charge him anything for that. Isn't she generous?

A rule of their game is that he can turn up at any time, and she is always waiting for him.

The thrown cushion takes his hat off as he comes through the door. He stumbles over his scarf, avoiding the vase that follows the cushion.

"Brute!" she hisses. "The food has gone cold because you spent half an hour standing outside!"

"But, Yuuko," he protests, "the sunset! It was a sunset that only comes every five hundred years!"

"Then why didn't you call me outside to see it?" she snaps.

"Oh." His entire face is crestfallen. "You know, I honestly have no idea. I was distracted. There were kites."

She makes him eat the food, even though it is half an hour cold.

A rule of their game is that he doesn't bring friends. They wouldn't understand.

"Jo's going to have half Tokyo in her shopping bags by the time I pick her up," he mourns.

"That, too, is hitsuzen," she tells him gravely.

A rule of their game is that he doesn't come by at times that might be awkward.

Especially not after the whole fiasco where Sakura almost ended up on Skaro after wandering into the TARDIS to investigate. That cost him his favourite umbrella.

A rule of their game is that some aspects of history shouldn't be looked at too closely.

She knows more than he wants to know that she knows.

A rule of their game is that hitsuzen is hitsuzen and that is that.

Except when he interferes and thinks she doesn't know about it.

She's come to the conclusion that occasionally he is hitsuzen, delivered in the back of the neck by a vaguely karmic chunk of the universe when it really gets annoyed.

A rule of their game is that he doesn't ask for anything, and she doesn't tell him the price.

The first time that he comes to visit after it has happened (she knew, she knew, but part of the price of knowing is that what you know is true and you cannot change the truth), he drinks the brandy that he had brought her as his usual gift. All of it. His eyes are dry, and he sits there and drinks, and she refills his glass, and the room is silent.

Eventually he sleeps, with his head in her lap, and she sighs and waits for morning.