The thin man stood in front of the table, looking at his friend. Of course Gihon knew he was there, the pretence of reading was nothing more than that. He was just waiting for Dave to start the conversation. “You know, it still amazes me. I go away and each time I see you again you take my breath away. It’s like that first time over again.”

“Can’t be,” the broad-shouldered man made a pantomime of checking himself before grinning back, “I’ve definitely been dressed the whole time I’ve been sat here, witnesses and everything.” They both laughed. It was a warm sound. It flowed around the courtyard. People nearby smiled and relaxed, most of them not noticing or knowing why. The years of separation were set aside in the healing and easy sound they shared. Gihon rose from his seat, extending a hand to his oldest friend. “Oh, come here you beautiful creature.” The handshake became a close embrace, neither of them wanting to be first one to let go of the other.

“People will talk.” The newcomer glanced quickly around the courtyard, reflexively noting a number of faces doing their best to look nonchalant and, whatever else, not stare at their greeting.

“I’d be upset if they didn’t. Damn, but it’s good just to see you again. You look … well, you look fucking amazing.” A large percentage of the nonchalant faces lost their struggle to a mixture of shock, surprise or prurient interest as the embrace proved to be just the precursor to a long, lingering kiss.

Lia had her back to the reunion in the courtyard below as she moved between tables to join her friends. First she dropped her bag and then herself into an empty chair. “Guys, we have been so busted, the big guy spotted you leering at him months ago.” There was no response from her friends. They seemed to be agog with whatever was going on in the courtyard; she was a little scared but had to ask. “What are you staring at?”

“They are kissing.” No need to ask who Lupe was referring to.

“They are European; it’s how they say hello over there. Do me a favour and be a little less provincial would you.” She picked up a menu, ignoring the little voice that had calculated how long it had taken her to get to the table. “Have you already had lunch or were you waiting for me?”

“No, this isn’t being polite, this is real kissing. You know, real ‘take me now’ kissing. Oh, I forgot, you don’t. Who’s this one then? Where’s he turned up from and, more to the point, how is Blondie going to take it when he finds out?” While the others were reduced to incoherent expressions of amazement, and Lupe seemed to be having problems working out the correct order of inhale and exhale, Robyn, incisive as ever, cut directly to their main concerns.

“He’s my new boss; he came in from Siberia earlier today.” She turned to look back at the table holding their interest. “Oh. See what you mean.” So, she hadn’t been out on her guess. Matched in height, extreme proximity exaggerated the slightness of one and the bulk of the other. She did her best to act cool. “That, ladies and germs, is Dave Jensson, possibly also known as David Jensson-Plaisir. Or vice versa …” Each seemed to focus all his attention on the other as they kissed. They didn’t rush; it was as if all their hellos were concentrated in that intimate and gentle contact. Something inside her gave a flutter and a lurch. She didn’t realise it then, but she was already lost. “Tell me, have they … oh, wow … has either of them stopped for air yet?”

Elvira Lopez had thought that, over all, the day had gone quite well. She was content that Gihon had selected someone already known to the university, and happy that that he had seemed so thrilled at the prospect of seeing his old friend again. Though she wouldn’t admit it to his face she had always been quite taken by the big man and organising him, whether he wanted it or not, was just her way of showing that she cared. With a heart full of a job well done she returned to her two bedroom duplex to tell her partner the good news that she’d been waiting to share for some days.

The dark haired European was beaten to revealing the news. As she stretched on the chaise longue by the big picture window (something had to make the apartment worth the extortionate rent) and wondered how the phrase the day’s events she was hit by a rolled edition of the latest student news flimsy. Well, she realised that it was not just news for her, but was still surprised by the speed it had been picked up by the newsletter. Someone at the Serpent had clearly had the presence of mind to aim a camera at the two men as they got re-acquainted and then their meal as they were joined by their blond housemate a short while later. “Faculty greets new tutor with open … arms” ran the headline next to the pictures, complete with a link to video footage.

The clear plastic sheet was snatched back out of Elvira’s hand, the words and the images blurring and sliding as Gielen waved it in front of her and then read out the brief passage. “’A mystery arrival was spotted having lunch today at the Feathered Serpent. Hard at work on your behalf we can reveal that this is Cultural History’s new tutor, Dave Jensson. Yes, apparently this really is Dave Jensson. A man with so many qualifications he never uses any. A man rumoured to be so rich that his income is more than some small countries. A man so old … well, on this evidence there must be something in the stories of visits to Swiss clinics. Details of his teaching schedule haven’t been released yet but we expect any classes to be over-subscribed so keep an eye on the boards for news. We believe that Jensson will be living with his ‘friend’ and former colleague from Temple University, Gihon Plaisir, and our very favourite campus Lothario, Mykhail Arkhangelskeyev.’”

Gielen sighed and continued, clearly irritated by the tone of the remaining text. “’As a responsible body we would not encourage speculation on what might go on behind closed doors in their fashionable Green Quarter apartment. We’d suggest visiting Unichat where we are certain the gossip boards will soon be melting with unfounded lurid stories and idle speculation no doubt only just this side of the pornographic (you know you want to).’” The reader said nothing else; the look on her face was enough to let Elvira know that there was some serious making up to be done.

“Aw G, I wanted to tell you. I wasn’t certain it would come through and, up to this morning, I didn’t even know it was going to be today. I hadn’t realised that the rag would pick it up so quickly. Ignore them. You know they are bunch of kids trying to make names for themselves by stirring things up.” She pulled her girlfriend down into her lap and hugged her close, kissing the blue streaks in her spiked black hair. “This is a good thing isn’t it? Gihon’s happy. That nice girl Lia’s happy that she’s got the job. I saw Myk on my way over and even said he was pleased to see the old man again.”

“I do hope so. I knew Gihon in Luxor remember. It near enough broke his heart the last time Dave left … I just don’t want him getting hurt again, he’s not a tough as he likes to think he is.”

“Don’t worry my sweet; you’re not on your own this time. I’m here to help – and with Lia on board there might be enough good sense between us to counteract whatever stupidity those males get into their heads.” Elvira had a good guess why she had bumped into Myk on her way home. She was certain this was definitely not going to be the same situation as Luxor.