As the election campaign churns on, in Epsom a thirsty candidate waits for John Key to put the kettle on.
The "cup of tea" with Act candidate John Banks has become something of a holy grail for the party as it seeks a stronger endorsement from National's leader.
So far Key hasn't committed, despite daily questions from the media. His replies vary from "it depends if I'm thirsty" to yesterday's "that's a topic for another day".
Despite the hard-to-get routine, it's a sure bet Key will have that cup of tea. He wants Act back in Parliament.
There's a risk that if he has the cuppa and Epsom defies him and votes for National's Paul Goldsmith, Key will look like an ass. But the greater risk by far for National is if he doesn't take tea and Act disappears altogether by losing the seat.
The usual fate of small parties who lose their place in Parliament is a bereft existence in the nursing home for the irrelevant. Some linger on, their limbo lives interrupted only by the occasional, largely ignored, press release.
As things stand, the nursing home is readying a bed for Act while NZ First has abandoned its bingo table and is trying to find the exit to redemption. Recent polls have shown its support has slowly but surely nudged back up to 3 per cent - too close to the 5 per cent threshold for National's comfort.
The tea party will happen because Key's worst nightmare is a Parliament without Act but with NZ First.
Key has already said he'd rather have Act in Parliament than not. National may find it doesn't need Act to form a government this time, but Key's mantra is that National is not so arrogant to believe it can govern without some friends, and he likes to have friends to the left and right.
If Act loses Epsom, the friend to the right will disappear.
Act is partly the author of its own demise - Brash over-promised and under-delivered on his support levels and the odd indifference John Banks seems to have to Brash's leadership is damaging.
Key will be hoping that, given time, this new incarnation of Act can consolidate after the ructions that have plagued it and rebuild some trust among its usual voters.
The reason for the delayed imbibing is that Key doesn't want Act to do too well.
Any gains for Act will come from National and a Key endorsement will reassure Act-leaning voters nationally their vote would not be wasted. So in 2008, Mr Key didn't take tea with then Act leader Rodney Hide until a week before the election.
Epsom voters are now accustomed to reading the tea leaves and will pick up on the message quickly. But it'll take longer for Act to spread the significance of that message nationally. Leaving it to the last minute, Key leaves less time for that message to get traction.
Key's "will I, won't I" routine also strengthens National's position against Act. As each week drags on, Act looks increasingly desperate.
It backed down on standing in four electorates National was targeting: New Plymouth, Waimakariri, West Coast-Tasman and Maungakiekie. Now there's the outstanding cup of tea.
If it survives 2011, a cup of tea will be all Act has the influence to ask for. It will owe National so much that it will be impotent.
This election, that cuppa is more critical for Act than National, which may find it can govern without Act. By 2014, its reservoir of goodwill will be shallower. Key could find himself very thirsty indeed, with nobody to bring the biscuits.