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Twenty Years Later

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Shion set down the revisions of Camus’ latest paper and sat down on his desk chair. They still had enough time, if they put in a bit of an extra effort, but he had just been feeling so tired lately… He looked to the clock next to the window. It was late. Not too late, but-

Someone knocked on the door.

“Professor Shion?” asked a voice that made his heart jump. He whirled his chair towards the door.

Dohko gave a light bow, a mischievous grin in his face.

Shion’s heart accelerated, blood rushing to his face. He stood up before even realizing he was moving “D-Dohko?”

Dohko winked at him and walked in. “The one and only. Ah, you still remember my face”

“Of course I do, don’t be silly,” said Shion looking away. He felt his face heating and knew that Dohko would see it. “You…what on earth brought you here?”

Dohko approached, two steps away from him, so close and yet…it felt like he stood too far apart from Shion. A cautious distance separating them.

“I’m opening a restaurant here,” said Dohko, hands on his hips, smile as bright as the first time Shion had seen him, and once more it made the ends of Shion’s lips turn up into a smile. Dohko’s happiness had always been so contagious to him.

“A restaurant? Seriously? So you’re…moving here…?”

“I will, in time. I’m just setting things up now so I’ll be going back to Shenzhen in a few days, it’s been a riot. I finished the set up for the inauguration and hadn’t been able to come see you.”

“Oh, of course,” said Shion, looking away. Of course he was leaving again. “Well, that is great. I’m so happy that you’re opening a new restaurant. Uhmm…”

“You’re a professor now,” said Dohko, his smile softening. “See? I told you would make it”

Shion blinked, his mind going back years, decades, twenty years in total, through his life in different continents. Way back to that day in Mongolia when he had failed his first exam for the national university and sat down to cry in the alley behind Dohko’s parents restaurant. They had been so young then.

“What do you want to go to university for anyway?”

“To study chemistry”

“And what do you do after that?”

“You…uhmm, you do research or, uh, become a Professor...”

“Professor. That sounds fancy. You do look kinda like a Professor. I think you’ll make it.”

“Don’t mock me”

“I don’t! You do look all serious, like professors in movies. Yes, you’ll be one of those stuffy guys in lab coats!”

And he had laughed then, because Dohko’s happiness had seemed to resonate inside him. Joy seemed like such an easy thing to bask in, when he was there.

Shion covered his face and took a step back. He felt like a dumb teenager all over again. “You did…You did say it…”

Dohko closed in, a step forward. And then another. “And you didn’t tell me, I had to go find it out all by myself, uh?”

“I-…I didn’t know how to-“

Dohko laughed. “I’m joking, I’m joking. You probably overthought it for days, and then ended up never writing to me about it”

“Err…”

“You did! Hah! Years and years and I can still read you like a book, Shion.”

Shion huffed. He was right. He was right and Shion hated it. He hated how Dohko always seemed to be able to see right through him.

“Ah, you haven’t changed a thing, you brat. Yes, I never figured out how to write to you about it. But I didn’t see any letters from you telling me about how you were moving to Greece,” he said, crossing his arms over his chest.

“It was going to be a surprise! That’s why I came today! I wanted to see your lab and invite you to the inauguration. We’ll catch up with each other. We always do. Do you have any students? They can come too. The more the merrier. It’s all on me today!”

Shion sighed. More people, that would be nice. It would be better if he didn’t have to be with Dohko all by himself. He wasn’t ready for that.

“I do…I, there’s…,” he said, thinking back through his team, trying to figure out who might still be in the university and coming up blank. He took another step back away from Dohko, his hip hitting against the desk and his eyes fell on the papers that Camus had given him earlier. “I do! Camus and Milo. They’re still around. Come, let’s go find them.”

Shion waved for Dohko to follow him and led him through the hallways to the lab, praying that those two would still be there. His heart still raced, and he didn’t even know why.

“They’ve produced very interesting data,” he said, trying to figure out something to fill in the silence between them. He hurried to the lab and opened the door. “Guys, I want you to meet…,” the lab was empty.

Dohko came in after him and surveyed the room. “Maybe they left early today?” he asked, looking at the machines and the instruments curiously.

Shion looked around for a note or anything. “Impossible. They’ve been staying until late these days to complete everything,” he said, and finally noticed the light of the monitor, feeling a bit of hope in his heart. “And look, the computer is still on.”

There was a strange sound behind him and he turned around. Dohko had the biggest grin in his face for some reason. He seemed to be enjoying Shion’s emotional disturbance a bit too much.

“Then they must have gone to get something to eat. I’ll meet them tomorrow. I’ll still be around for a few days,” he said, walking towards Shion.

Shion backed away, his heart jumping again when Dohko closed in on him. “They might not take too long,” he said, patting his coat pockets looking for his cellphone before remembering that he had left it at his desk. “And tomorrow, I…had other plans. Let’s wait.”

There was a noise at the back and Shion turned to look, when suddenly Dohko snickered as if he had heard the funniest thing. But before Shion could say anything, Dohko sneaked an arm around his waist, pulling him closer.

“Seriously? Just let them be,” he said, pulling him towards the door. “Come, let’s go have dinner.”

“B-but-!” mumbled Shion, not fully processing what was happening.

“But nothing. Come, I want to show you the new décor of the restaurant.”

Shion swallowed the knot in his throat, and realized that they might end up not just having dinner at this rate. Which felt like a great option to his racing heart, if he was being fully honest with himself.

But he was not about to start being fully honest with himself. He hadn’t been so in twenty years and he wasn’t about to start now.

“Oh, just let me leave a message for Camus so he’ll call me when they get back. They can catch up with us at the restaurant,” he said, disentangling himself from Dohko’s arms. He went back to the computer desk and fumbled around for a pen.

Dohko handed him a red one and he took it, scribbling a quick note on the post it before sticking it on the monitor.

“There. I hope they can catch up with us,” he said, and started walking towards the door.

“You’re such a mother hen. Come, let’s hurry.”

They went back to Shion’s office so he could pick up his cell phone and lock everything.

“So the inauguration is tonight?” asked Shion, taking off his coat and putting his jacket back on. He looked around for his keys, phone and wallet. He felt like his mind was all a jumble.

Dohko didn’t answer, so Shion turned around. “Dohko? Is there something wrong?”

“Nothing wrong,” said Dohko, holding his phone up. “I just thought the way you took off the coat was very hot, so I took some pictures.”

Shion felt his face burning hot. “Dohko! You can’t just go around taking secret pictures of me!” he said, stomping towards him.

Dohko grinned. “It’s not a secret if I tell you,” he said, and closed in on him, reaching up on the tip of his toes to wrap and arm around Shion’s shoulder. “I learned how to use this phone thing just to get pictures of you, and pictures with you. So come on, let’s take a seffie!”

“It’s called a selfie,” said Shion, and grabbed the phone from Dohko’s hands. “When was the last time we took a photo together?”

“When you passed the exam. Back in Ulan Bator,” said Dohko. “Twenty years ago”

Shion looked at the image of them both on the screen and took the picture.

“Twenty years ago…,” repeated Shion, giving back the phone to Dohko. “That can’t be.”

Dohko pulled out a photograph from his pocket and showed it to him. Younger versions of themselves stared back at Shion from the image. They looked so young. So very young. He traced his finger over their faces.

“You kept it?” asked Shion in a breathless whisper.

Dohko grabbed the photograph, his fingertips brushing Shion’s hand. “Always.”

Shion let go of the picture, and looked into Dohko’s eyes.

“Dohko, it’s been so long. Why…?”

Dohko pressed a finger tip to Shion’s lips and gave him a mischievous wink. “Dinner first.”