Just then, my client came in the pub, looked around, an' walked up ta the booth. He glanced momentarily at my friend, who lifted his glass an' said, "Hi," before grinnin' an' takin' a drink.

My client said, "I guess I'm done, Mr. Valens. I mean, I've done what I can. Is there some way... you could sort of... take me to see... how everything turns out?"

"Ya want me ta leave the meter runnin'?" I asked with a li'l half-drunken laugh.

"Are you drunk, Mr. Valens?"

"Cupid's own drink, y'know," said my friend, again raisin' his glass ta my client. He took another drink, which he almost spat out when he started chortlin' at a thought that'd just occurred ta him. He nodded his head toward me, an' looked back at my client, sayin' "Not that we're... um... one of Cupid's projects, or anything," an' he went back ta laughin a bit more, an' drinkin'.

"Whatever. You won't be operating your time machine in this state, will you, Mr. Valens?"

"No, no. Look, sit down, I'll buy ya a drink. We'll leave in a few hours, if ya like. Hey, ya see any good movies in the past few months? You could take this oppurtunity ta see it again, fer the first time." Never havin' seen any twentieth century breakfast cereal commercials, neither a them got it, but my friend laughed anyway. In our state, just about anythin's amusin', whether ya get it or not.

He sat down, the waitress came back, not even lookin' at my friend. To my client she said, "Can I get you something?"

"Strongbow," he said.

"Yeah, an' put it on my bill. Don't worry 'bout him, either. He's okay. He's got one true love, an' would break the very laws of space an' time if need be, ta be with his love." I glanced at my friend, then back ta the waitress. "His bill's separate."

She just looked at my client. "I'll be back with your cider in a minute," and she left.

I turned back ta the newcomer. "So, how'd ya think it went, kid?"

"I'm not sure. I guess all I can do is hope. But...."

"Oh, yeah. Yeah, sorry, kid. I did explain ta ya before ya hired me, right...?"

He sighed. "Yeah... no guarantees, no money back, no sneek peaks. Que sera, sera.

The kid did not seem positive all would work out as he hoped. Well, hell, I always like ta look inta the outcomes a my jobs. "Well, look, wait." I went ta the bar an' paid my bill, then went back ta the table. "Look, you finish yer drink, then go see a movie or whatever. Be back here in a few hours, so will I, an' we'll go. I got some things ta do meanwhile."

I went back ta my time machine, an' went back a few hours ta spy on the kid talkin' ta himself.

"Hey," was how he started, as he came up ta himself walkin' down the street.

Past him looked up at future him. "Hey. You're me, aren't you?"

"About a year from now, yeah."

"You hear about this sort of thing, don't you? Weird, though, for it to happen to you..."

"I guess."

"Well... why're you here?"

"It's about-" an' for the purposes a this narrative, so as ta protect the anonymity of my clients, I have mentioned neither his name, nor now will I mention the name a his girlfriend. After namin' her ta himself, he said, "She's going to break up with you in a few months."

Past him looked crestfallen. In fact, tears began ta form in his eyes. Future him said, "Perhaps we should find someplace to sit and talk privately." An' so they did, though not quite as private as they thought. Future him began tellin' past him all he had ta say, an' past responded as future expected, an' they went on talkin' fer some while. Of course neither of 'em was ashamed ta cry in the presense of the other, but I felt kinda ashamed eavesdroppin' on it. I told m'sef maybe it'd end up bein' a part of doin' a favor fer my client.

Finally, they both went their separate ways, an' I s'pose future headed fer the pub. Past headed fer his girlfriend's place. I swallowed my shame once again an' shadowed him.

She answered her door an' invited him in. They sat down on the couch. At this point my spyin' needs must employ a listenin' device, as I'm still outside. Skulkin', as it were. Don't bother askin' why an honest guy like me, so very averse ta this kinda activity, happens ta have a listenin' device with him in the first place. Just don't, okay?

She could tell somethin' was wrong straight away, an' asked what it was.

"What would you say," he said, "if I told you I'd been visited today by... by myself, from the future?"

"You hear about such things, but...." Her eyes widened. "Were you really?"

He sighed, actually took a deep breath. "Yes. He... I... said a few months from now, you were going to break up with me."

"But... I mean, you don't think... I don't see how, or why..."

"Well, to tell the truth, I've been somewhat worried about this for a while now. I've been trying to tell myself it won't happen, I'm just being paranoid, or, just thinking too little of myself, as I sometimes do... But still, sometimes it seems... I don't always make you as happy as I could. I do try... and I've been trying harder...."

"I know,-" I won't repeat his name. "I know, but... I mean, I guess sometimes I think you could... well, there are things... But still! I love you, you know that, right?"

"I know. And I love you... and I don't want to lose you, ever. I just want to make you happy, as you make me so happy."

"You do, so much of the time. And I don't want to lose you either. I don't see how it could get to that point, in that short a time... if ever at all..."

"I don't either. But it seems hard to refute my own word. He said... I should just try harder. I thought I was already trying as hard as I can. But I have to admit, sometimes I want to talk to you about... things... and I just don't know what to say. Or I don't think you'll want to hear it. Sometimes... I look at myself, and see just what you seem to want, but you seem to see the opposite, and I can't understand it. And I get so... I just don't know what to do."

"I know... and I don't know what to tell you. I know you feel that way, and sometimes I just think... you're wrong, and I can't understand how you can feel as you do, and you just annoy me... But then, eventually, things are alright again, and I just try to forget th at they sometimes aren't, and enjoy the time that's good. It's just... easier..."

"I do that too. But we can't keep doing that. We have to work together... however hard, however painful, confusing, or annoying... we have to talk to each other all the time, about what we think and what we feel. We both have to try to see through each other's eyes, try and make this work...."

"Yes," she agreed. There were tears in both their eyes, an' they didn't know what else ta say at the moment an' so they just held each other tight.... An' I figured it was my time ta get outta there.

I got back ta the pub, an' my two fellows were gone. The booth we'd been in was unoccupied, so I sat back down. When the waitress came by, I ordered a coffee. She seemed relieved. I took out a book ta read while waitin' fer the others ta come back. I was on my second cup an' my third chapter when they did.

"Hey, Tino," said my friend, slidin' inta the seat opposite once again.

Lookin' up from my book, I said, "A hundred creds on scenario two."

"Done." He suspected I mighta looked inta things a bit, but he knew at least I'd never make a bet havin' looked at the final outcome. Anyway, he didn't care 'bout winnnin' or losin'. He had more'n enough money. He just liked ta have a li'l fun now an' then. He looked at my client with a smile an' said, "I think your chances are better than mine."

He didn't get it an' didn't pretend to. Still, it seemed a positive thing ta him, an' he smiled as well.

I picked up my book an' put it in a pocket, took a last sip a coffee, left some money on the table, an' said goodbye ta my friend. As my client an' I were leaving, we passed me on the way out. The me who belonged in this time. My friend waved him over ta the booth, an' he later told me of the fun we had tryin' ta convince the poor waitress I hadn't had a drop a alcohol ta drink all day- which, of course, I hadn't.

I dropped my client off a year later, where he soon became the him the new timeline had made a him, an' he smiled an' told me all was still well with him an' his girlfriend. He shook my hand, handed me his debit card ta make payment in full, instantly, an' I handed it back an' congratulated him, wished him well, an' went home, feelin' pretty good.

Take that, Universe.

Four years later, she came ta me, all in tears, an' I had a sense a deja vu not uncommon in my line a work. When the job was done, I wasn't surprised ta find the same old friend there. I slumped down inta the seat opposite him, tossed a hundred credit note on the table, an' said, "Ya win some, ya lose some. Seemed like a healthy rebeginin' ta me, at the time." The waitress- a new one- came an' asked if she could get me anythin' ta drink. "God, yes. An' be sure ta ask again."

She left, an' my friend said, "Hey... don't let the Universe get ya down, man. Sometimes what's meant to be, isn't, and nothing can be done to change that." He picked up the money, pocked it, took a swig a his own drink. He seemed ta search his memory, did some calculations, an' figured out which bet he'd just won, from five years back. "Hey, I did say, didn't I, it can't be so bad spendin' every other half of eternity with the one you love."

The waitress returned with my drink. I realized I hadn't said what I wanted. I thought a that other waitress. She'd been here, if memory served, about a month before she quit, or was fired. The one we had tonight had been here nearly a year. I was a regular. Musta known my usual. I never really thought a myself as havin' a usual. She'd brought me a Guinness. "Next one," I said, "when I'm done with this, make it a Strongbow."

"Okay." An' she left.

"That's what he had, right?" my friend asked. I nodded, an' started inta my drink. I had my way of tryin' ta cheer m'sef up, he had his way of tryin' ta help. He said, "Hey, just be glad people like you don't get stuck in their clients' loops, yeah?"

"Yeah" I said. "Not that that makes any sense."

"Oh, now... don't go joinin' any sci-fi clubs on me, man."

I grinned, briefly, an' took another gulp. Maybe when I'd finished a coulpe a full drinks, I'd make myself remember the explanation why I couldn't be caught in other people's causal loops, even if I unwittingly facilitated them. Maybe... maybe by then I'd care.

Never experienced true love, m'sef. There's one way the Universe'll never hurt ol' Tino Valens....