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Happy T; Mula Noon, Hanggang Ngayon, Higit pa sa Magpakailanman

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Thursday | BUSLAW2 | Y405 | 16:15 - 17:45

 

                    5:31 PM

                    Blue:      Have reh tonight?

                    Green:   yeah

 

                    5:35 PM

                    Blue:      til what time?

 

                    5:38 PM

                    Green:   probs 10-11

                    Blue:      thought campus closes

                                   at 10?

                    Green:   Compe is in 2 weeks

 

                    5:39 PM

                    Blue:      okay

 

                    5:42 PM

                    Blue:      reh at henry sy ba or razons?

 

The Lasallian snickers to himself.

 

                    5:42 PM

                    Green:   at razon babe

                    Green:   without the s

                    Green:   we dont serve halo-halo

                                   here

                    Blue:      I knew that

                    Blue:      just wanted to make

                                   you smile :)

 

The hard lines on his face soften and his lips mirror the emoji’s smile. His vision becomes dark when he slowly lets his eyes shut. One. Two. Breathe out.

He whistles out his breath as his lashes separate. The black lines from the words written in the last gray chat bubble clear in Salle’s vision. He reads it over once more.

 

                    5:45 PM

                    Green:   :)

                    Green:   ily

 

The tune of Beautiful Dreamer echoes across the empty corridors outside their classroom. Salle’s classmates take the cue and the sound of plastic cover, paper and cardboard scraping against the wooden arm chairs all fill the air, muffling the last few regards of the professor. Writing materials and laptops are slipped into bags and zipped shut.

            “Oh sige, mukhang nagmamadali na kayo ano,” Salle hears the professor mutter bitterly. “See you next week,”

Several pairs of shoes shuffle past Salle to file out of the classroom which is now echoing with conversation. Without a minute’s passing, only a few people is left in the room. Salle blinks a few times, as if he just became aware of his surroundings. He lets out a light sigh and only then does he manage to pocket his phone.

He fixes his things and carelessly shoves them into his duffel bag. He slings it over his shoulder and makes his way out of the classroom.

 

 

 


 

 

Thursday | TRANSITION PERIOD | 17:45 - 18:00

The towering doors of the service elevator slide open to reveal the lobby of Yuchengco Building. The open hallway is packed with students. The course of the day has reached that hour where most of the students’ last periods end. Students are either rushing through the crowd, in a hurry to leave, scattered on the benches, chatting up their friends, or walking around in annoyingly large groups (probably the froshies).

And the collective wave of murmurs, chortling, rowdiness all rings too loudly inside Salle’s head. He finds himself squeezing through several crowds of bodies. His jaw locks in irritation as a solid knit forms between his eyebrows. Salle can’t exactly pinpoint why he has been in such a sour mood; is it because he woke up pissed? Or maybe he doesn’t have enough sleep in the first place? Maybe he hasn’t had much coffee in the morning? Maybe he’s hungry… Has he even eaten today?

Maybe it’s just the stress of upcoming finals week, rehearsals, the competition, all the events he’s agreed to host in. Exams, rehearsals, booth and final projects schedules overlapping on top of each other. There is so much on his plate and it’s beginning to get the best of him—

He pauses as he reaches the other end of the lobby. It is still swarming with people, but it’s one of the small spots in the whole campus where trees are swaying and tinted with the golden hour’s light. The wind tunnel underneath Henry Sy building is still crowded, but the path is wide enough to let Salle some distance between strangers.

He stands there, just evening out his breaths.

            Almost done, dude. Just finish rehearsals and get it over with.

He nods, once. As he takes a step from his spot, and a set of big palms firmly hold his arms, nearly tipping him out of balance.

            “Bro, ‘kay ka lang?” The person asks lightly as he slightly shakes Salle.

Salle blinks and realizes the person was one of his friends from his other org. He nods at him and forces a hard smile. A very unlike-Salle-smile.

            The dude decides to let go of Salle and he brings up his fist to lightly punch Salle’s arm. “Nga pala bro, we’re heading to BGC in a while, para sa uhh birthday ni Diego?”

Salle, clearly not giving two shits about this conversation and whoever the fuck Diego is, gives a half-assed hum of acknowledgement.

            “Sama ka na dude! Guest list tayo! I’ll give him your name—” he says and proceeds to fish out his phone until Salle cuts him.

            “Yeah. Uh. Can’t tonight. Pass muna, sorry—”

            “Say whaaaaaat!?” The guy cries out in a very meme-ish way. “What else you got going? It’s Happy T kaya tonight pare—”

            “I have rehearsals.” He deadpans, his irritation brimming, at the brink of spilling.

            “Pfffsshh,” The guy waves his hand, brushing off Salle’s answer. “Fuck rehearsals man—”

            “Yeah I know,” he keeps himself from rolling his eyes, “same—”

            “Skip that shit bruh,”

Something inside Salle snaps. The lines on his face sharpen. He shoots the guy a hard look. Even with the heat of the weather and Salle’s jacket thick green jacket wrapped around him, the guy freezes under Salle’s cold eyes.

The poor orgmate helplessly brings his hands up in defense before stuttering over his words.

            “Okay dude, I’m s-sorry. I was just kidding lang pare.”

Salle’s eyes shut as he lightly sighs. He figures there is really no point in pissing himself off more. He shakes his head and waves his hand.

            “It’s fine. Sorry. Anyway,” He trains his eyes straight ahead and fixes his bag’s strap on his shoulder. “I’m late na.”

The guy could only nod at him as soon as the tension lifts, seemingly just wanting to run for the hills already.

            “Have fun sa birthday ni Diego or whatever,” Salle mutters as he begins heading stepping away to get to rehearsals.

He passes by the walls and concrete buildings as he does with every student, professor, guard that passes him. He’s usually one to greet everyone he knows when he’s walking around campus. Today might be an exception. He already took time to greet one of his acquaintances just earlier, and he left him even more annoyed. He just simply wishes he could be invisible for the remaining hours of his day. Just so he doesn’t have to interact to anyone or act human in front of another.

             Lapit na. Four hours na lang.

 He reminds himself.

And he resorts to just hoping for the best in the next four hours.

 

 

 


 

 

 

Thursday | LSDC ST REHEARSALS | 18:00 - 21:00 (22:00)

While Salle hopes for the best, he definitely does not think of expecting the worst.

 

            Mphff— “Shit.”

He misplaces his weight when his foot lands and it causes him to make an obvious delay when he tries to catch up to the next step. As he mentally begs the Lasallian brothers for everyone in the hall to brush off his misstep, the coach’s whistle pierces through the music and it echoes painfully through everyone’s ears. The music stops and Salle feels everyone behind him quietly groan.

Pairs of feet shuffle as they all straighten up from their position. Salle trains his eyes down to the tiles while he rests hands on his waist, disappointed in himself. He feels the weight of everyone’s eyes burning a hole through his back. His chest tightens with guilt, knowing they’ll have to repeat the whole routine once again because of him. Two weeks before the competition and only now is he deciding to make these dumb mistakes, more so during the part when he’s a front line?!

             Get a fucking grip Salle—

            “Take five,” Coach announces.

Everyone lets out a sigh of relief or a grunt of mild irritation. Salle knows some of the members’ eyes rolled at him. He however, remains standing in front of the mirrored wall while everyone takes the break— he knows it is he who messed up. And it is he who the Coach was approaching.

            “Salle,”

He brings his chin up weakly, stands up straighter and pulls his arms behind his back.

            “Coach,”

            “What did I say about being in rehearsals?” Her voice is sharp, much like her unwavering eyes that she keeps on Salle, despite him desperately searching for anything to look at.

            “… Focus...” Salle has never felt so exhausted and unsure of himself before. His answer clearly isn’t reflecting all the million things that are going through his head.

            “Tama.” She dips her chin in agreement. “And right now Salle, wala ka sa focus.”

Salle feels his heart sink to his stomach. It’s one thing to know for himself that he’s not doing well, it’s another thing to hear it from his coach who expects so much from him. He’s suddenly reminded that a whole team behind him is counting on him and on each other not to fuck up especially with their limited days of rehearsals.

            “May isa pa kong rule sa rehearsal.”

He hears the change in her tone, how it sounded softer. Salle finds it in him to tip his eyes up to meet hers. His coach sighs and relaxes in her stance.

            “Pagnandito ka, you don’t think about anything else except rehearsals.” She dips her head to try and get a better look at Salle better. “Whatever it is that’s bothering you Salle, unless emergency ‘yan, you let it go.”

The ends of his lips tip down to a frown as he nods, taking in his Coach’s words.

            “Wouldn’t it be nice to forget about the world for a few hours? And just do what you love?”

Salle sighs lightly. She was right. She really is the best coach. Salle is thankful that she is as strict as she is caring. A weak smile tugs on Salle’s lips as small thank you.

            Coach brings up her fingers to pat on Salle’s shoulder firmly. “You’re a great dancer, Salle. Just need to clear your head, at least for another hour.”

He lets an even breath out and genuinely smiles, for maybe the first time since the day started. She grips his shoulder in a manner of comfort then nods before letting go.

            “You have three minutes.” Says his coach before she turns her back on him.

He lets his shoulders relax before walking over to his duffel bag. He sinks down, leaning on the wall when he grabs his water jug with one hand and his phone with his other. He unlocks his phone to check his notifs as he drinks.

He taps on Neo’s chathead and scrolls through the unread messages:

 

                    5:47 PM

                    Blue:      ily2 dingbat

                    Blue:      *kiss emojis*

 

                    5:51 PM

                    Blue:      good luck sa reh archie

                                   *kissy kitty emoji*

                               

                    6:49 PM

                    Blue:      blue sent a photo

 

Salle taps the photo and waits for it to load. The blue line reaches the other end and a dimly lit photo of Neo is revealed. He’s wearing the classic thin plaid white and blue collared shirt. His face however, was drawn over with a tiny, black, heart shaped nose over his own and two whiskers on each of his cheeks. On his head are two black circles meant as ears with pink hearts in each of them. His eyes were framed with round, black, thin rimmed, specs.

             God. He's gonna be the death of me.

He also notices him leaning his head on a car window on the photo. He puts his water jug between his legs and begins typing quickly:

 

                    8:33 PM

                    Green:   why this dumbass gotta

                                   look so cute

                    Blue:      *smiling eyes emojis*

                    Green:   hehe

                    Green:   wheres he headed?

 

                    8:34 PM

                    Blue:      have a dinner at shang

                    Green:   Ahhhh

                    Green:   okay

                    Green:   enjoy dinner love

                    Blue:      *smiling eyes emojis*

                    Blue:      Ikaw

 

                    8:35 PM

                    Blue:      aren’t you at reh?

 

Salle’s head pulls up at the sound of his coach calling people back into formation.

 

                    8:35 PM

                    Green:   yep water break

                                   gtg ttyl

                    Green:   luv u

 

He tosses his phone into his bag before he gets the chance to see Neo’s reply. He tidies up his belongings and shoots up to his feet. It feels forever ago since his foul temper clouded his mind. With his coach’s encouragement and getting a chance to talk to his boyfriend for a little while may have lifted his mood.

Salle makes his way to his starting position for the routine.

 

Coach snaps her finger.

 

The familiar music begins.

 

With one stream of breath, he clears his head; and fills it with music.

 

 

 


 

 

Thursday | ????? ??? | 20:51

He pauses by the few steps to One Archer’s lobby, just outside CBTL and fishes his phone out from his pocket to read over his semi fool-proof checklist if everything is cleared for the night.

            

              DLSU Entry for dummies:

                      ✔ no ID, no entry

                      ✔ no permit, no entry

                      ✔ dummy C.P.

                      ❒  parking pass

                      ❒  ticket pass

                      ✔ food for more than 5

                             needs permit

                      ❒  food through parking pass

                      ❒  large equipment needs

                           permit

                      ❒  extra people needs permit

 

              Cammo:

                      ✔ no slippers

                      ✔ shorts/skirts longer than

                            longest finger tips at the side

                      ✔ wear IDs at all time (must

                            be visible)

                      ✔ no spaghetti straps

                      ✔ no showing of midriff

                      ✔ no sleeveless shirts

                      ✔ no extreme hair colors

                      ✔ no see through clothing

                      ✔ no profanity/double

                            meaning shirts

                      ✔ no plunging necklines

 

As he goes through the second part of the list one by one, he ends up rolling his eyes. It is ridiculous, the amount of items on this list just to get into this damn campus. No wonder why most of them are too proud, they have to wake up every morning stressing themselves over checking things off this very condensed list just to get into their own campus and study even if they pay for the tuition.

All the while, people from their side of the “north” could just waltz in wearing whatever the fuck.

            Ugh.

He grunts in disappointment as he shoves his phone back into his pocket.

            Man if I studied here, I’d be up in the admin’s face, demanding for that ridiculous hegemonic-heteronormative dresscode to be damned.

He sucks in a breath to relieve himself while brushing away invisible strands of hair from his face using both set of fingers with exaggeration.  He bends down a little to pick up the solo-sized pizza box from YellowCab along with the two other white boxes atop it.

            Good thing I study in Ateneo.

He thinks to himself before crossing the street to what he remembers as the “Razon” building (without the s). He eyes the dimly lit, narrow and darkened entrance to the building. The lights are yellowing and dim, as if it hasn’t been changed for years. The paint on the walls already faded and darkened with age. The narrow road just outside the building is swarming with street food stalls on each side of the road and many street children playing nearby at this time of the night was not at all helping the overall sketchy atmosphere.

            Seems sketchy.

It’s not like Neo hasn’t been here before, he’s just never gone here by himself. He always had Salle by his side to lead him. It’s amazing how he believes his memory hasn’t failed him yet.

Trespassing into his own campus was so easy, Salle doesn’t even break a sweat when he does it and he blends in so easily every time! Neo’s orgmates even asks him if he’s a newbie. The fucking tool. And he was also always so sure that Neo wouldn’t be able to do the same to his campus.

            “Well we’ll see about that.” He mutters to himself. Challenge accepted, greenblood.

Three years of theater acting has lead him to this very moment. If he succeeds, he at least deserves an Oscar.

Neo shuts his mouth after staring at the building for too long and gulps. He eyes the guard’s post by a small desk and in a split second he wills his stance to relax, as if he is a student here and he always has been.

            Here goes nothing. Hope I doesn’t get Salle expelled.

He’s not one to take a lot of risks but somehow he was willing to risk Salle getting possibly expelled for the sake of “forbidden” love between “rivals”. But really, he’s just doing this to try and put a smile on his dumb boyfriend’s frowning face.

            Para di na siya sad.

He makes his way up the steps and prays to all the Jesuits from all the way across Katip for some smooth sailing. He pauses at the guard post as casually as he can manage before presenting his ID.

 

 

 


 

 

 

Thursday | E901 | 22:16

The last beat of the song blasts through the speakers and he stands tall with his chin held high and proud. His chest vibrates, quietly heaving for his breath in his held stance as the high of energy surges through every inch of his skin. Salle stares at the mirrored wall where around nineteen other members held their figure.

Coach claps her hands once and the whole crew erupts in cheers for their first perfect full run. Even Salle can’t help breaking into a smile.

 

After the company call, the crew disperses towards their bags to pack up. Salle sits by the wall once again and checks his phone to see the messages that Neo left. A crewmate of his, Kiel, suddenly sits beside him and begins asking him for his after rehearsal plans when—

            “Kuya Salle,”

Both men look up to see one of this year’s newbies. Her light frame stands hesitantly in front of them, with one foot tucked behind her other ankle. A little surprised, Salle greets her.

            “Hey! What’s up?” He says in a bright voice that always seems to come naturally when talking to newbies.

            “Uhh—” The girl hesitates, glancing to the side where her other co-newbies sat by the other wall, urging her with glinting eyes. The girl’s cheeks starts turning into a dark shade of red.

One end of Salle’s lips quirks up. He finds it cute, but of course he’ll just pretend the girl is flushed because of rehearsals.

            “Yes?” He asks kindly, while Kiel ducks his head to hide his snicker.

            “Well uhmm,” her feet shuffle. “I saw kasi kanina na you were uhmm… a lot was going through your head.”

And at this point, it is Salle who turns a little red.

            “Oh…” He snickers, “Kinda. Yeah. But I’m okay now! I guess…”

The girl immediately beams up at him when he says this and quickly pushes her hands out to their view. She holds out a small container of what looks like—

            “I baked these earlier and brought it here,” she squeaks. “I already passed them around kanina, and this is what’s left of it… figured you haven’t had a share of it yet…”

Salle feels his chest relax and spread with warmth. Heat washes over his cheeks, overwhelmed by this girl’s kindness.

            “Aaaaw, thank you so much!” He giggles.

He stands up to take the container from the girl and pulls her in for a quick hug. The girl rises to her toes to hug him back.

            “Really though, I appreciate it.” He says to the girl when he pulls away, flashing her a charming smile.

The girl beams up at him all giddy, her cheeks dusted with pink. It warms his heart to know that people from the crew, including his coach, is genuinely concerned for him. And with that, the girl steps back to and heads to her friends, while he gathers his duffel bag and swings the strap over his shoulder.

 

 

At 10:31 in the evening, Salle and Kiel head for the door. They resume their conversation on after-rehearsal plans. Even though Kiel was a foot taller than Salle, they walk together shoulder to shoulder.

            “So yeah, Miggy’s gonna have dinner din daw,” Kiel explains, “Sama ka bro,”

            Salle nods. “San ba?”

            “Was thinking Ged and Barts eh.”

            “Sarado na ‘yun by this time, dude.”

Kiel snickers at this and hums to himself, thinking a little bit. It takes him a few seconds before his eyes brighten up at a thought. He slowly turns his head to Salle with a flirtatious smile. Salle quirks his eyebrow up in question, but a smile is tugging at his lips.

            “What?” He asks with a bright voice. When Kiel doesn’t answer, Salle asks again. “What!?”

To Salle’s surprise, Kiel leans down, lowering his lips to Salle’s ear.

            “Sex tayo.” Kiel whispers.

The archer throws his head back in laughter. His eyes crinkle at the sides as he wheezes. Kiel pulls away and snickers with him. They finally step out of the rehearsal hall and as Salle catches his breath, he looks up at Kiel and eyes him smugly.

            “Taraaaa, sex tayooo,” Salle teases playfully.

And it is Kiel’s turn to have a laugh. They laugh together and Kiel’s eyes open to look at Salle, and he spots someone standing on the bleachers at Salle’s side.

            “Uy!” Kiel exclaims. Kiel raises his hand to wave.

Salle sees his friend gesture to someone at the bleachers beside him. He turns his head to see who it is. And oh

 

All too quickly, he feels his heart skip a beat— then it's running 5 miles per millisecond— heat washing over his skin— frozen and shocked— feet planted on the concrete— when all he wants to do is jump at him and feel the warmth of his skin on his own—

            “NEO!”

 Salle leaps from his position and throws his arms around Neo’s... anything and EVERYTHING.

            “Tangina what are you doing here?!” He almost yells into his boyfriend’s skin in excitement. “Sabi mo you were at Shang!!??!”

The volume of his voice shakes the silence throughout the whole floor and rings loudly in Neo’s ears. The man being crushed by Salle’s hug winces.

            “Stop yelling at me,” he deadpans, trying to pull his face away to avoid getting his glasses skewed.

Salle pulls away throwing his head back in laughter but still keeping his arms locked around Neo. The sound of his laughter hits Neo’s core and it softens the features on his dumb boyfriend’s fake-annoyed face. Neo quietly stares at him with a fond smile that he couldn’t help.

He can’t help it.

He loves him.

Neo reaches out to touch Salle’s cheeks with the tips of his fingers. Salle’s laughter dies down as soon as he feels his lover’s fingers on his skin and he brings his chin down to find his eyes.

Neo smiles at him cutely.

            “’Di ka na sad?” his blue blooded boyfriend asks him.

Salle giggles, unable to stop himself from drowning in Neo’s eyes. He shakes his head a little.

            “’Di na.” he tells him.

Neo brings his fingers down to Salle’s chest and pats them once with both of his palms.

            “Welp!” Neo says brightly, “Guess I can go now, my job here’s done.” And his boyfriend swoops under Salle’s arms and begins walking away.

Salle whines and immediately throws his hands out to catch one of Neo’s when his lover steps over to cross him. He giggles when Neo doesn’t turn back to him. He lets himself be dragged by his boyfriend.

            “Neoooo! Noooo!!—”

            “Hindeeee—You don’t need me naman eh.” Neo shakes his head while dragging Salle to the stairs. At this point they both just didn’t give a flying fuck about all of Salle’s crewmates staring at them. “Mag-se-sex naman daw kayo eh,”

He gestures to Kiel with a smirk. Salle’s crewmate cackles at the dumb couple.

            “I heard it kaya— you don’t need me na.” Neo fake sulks.

            “Eeeeeh!!!” Salle whines loudly, quickly stepping over to close the distance between them and wraps his arms around Neo’s waist. He tightly hugs him from behind and stubbornly buries his face at Neo’s neck. He continuously murmurs into his skin, playfully denying everything Neo saw and heard.

The eagle laughs and pat’s his boyfriend’s arms. He leans back on him and hums.

Kiel in front of them, who was the only left from the crew, remains standing by the railing, watching the whole scene unfold. He giggles at the two.

            “I think iba na ka-sex ni Salle tonight,” Kiel teases them.

            “Hmm… dapat lang,” Neo hums lovingly before reaching up behind him to pat Salle’s cheeks.

The three of them giggles at their petty scene.

 

At some point, the guard arrives to tell them the building is shut and Salle finally decides to unclasp his clingy self from Neo. The trespasser picks up his take-out from the bench he sat on earlier and the three of them makes their way down the bleacher's staircase, heading to the elevator. With Neo’s hands occupied with the take-out, Salle decides to find solace in clinging to his boyfriend’s arm.

            “Hoy, we were talking about Sex as in Sinangag Express ha.” Salle defends himself inside the elevator. “Don’t make tampo to me, I’ll sapak you.”

            “Hmmm sure, Salvador.” Neo bites back sarcastically.

            “Totoo nga!” He pouts stubbornly.

It causes both Neo and Kiel to laugh. Salle becomes such a mess and loses composure when his boyfriend is around.

            “Bro, ang rupok mo naman.” Kiel comments in the middle of giggling.

Neo laughter rings inside the elevator and Salle pouts even more profusely. Seeing the hard pout on Salle’s face, Neo coos at him and leans in to peck his cheek.

The elevator slides open and they all step out. It seems Salle has forgotten everything else in the world, including Kiel. He is Salle’s friend but it is Neo who faces him once they reach the side of the road.

            “Hey, really sorry for crashing your trip to Sex,” Neo tells him.

Kiel chuckles at him and waves it off.

            “Nah dude, it’s fine.” He smiles at Neo. “Kanina pa badtrip yan. Good thing you surprised this dumbass, wala na sa‘kin ‘yung burden to tell him to eat.” He chortles at this and so does Neo.

            “‘Kaw talaga,” Neo nudges Salle’s side. “You didn’t eat na naman.”

            Salle merely shrugs at Neo’s scolding and steps forward to bump fists with Kiel. “Next time na lang sex, bro.”

            The taller man nods and completes their bro-shake, “Ayt, dude. See you reh tomorrow.” He turns to Neo, “Nice to see you again.”

            He waves at the couple, but before he steps away he teases with, “Practice safe sex, okay?”

It causes Neo to laugh loudly and Salle lets out a low chuckle.

            “Inggit ka lang!” He calls after him.

The smug dancer smirks and flicks two fingers to salute at them as he steps away.

The lovebirds turn to each other, immediately being pulled into their own little world once the third wheel is nowhere to be seen. They cross the road and make their way up the steps to One Archer’s lobby.

 

 

 


 

 

Thursday | One Archer’s W1606 | 22:51

At this point, Salle is beginning to look absolutely stupid.

He leans his side on the mirror inside the west tower’s elevator; seemingly entranced with Neo’s beauty like he is seeing it for the first time, like he has been made witness to the lord’s light and nothing in the mundane world could ever pull him out of his answered prayer. He keeps his palm on Neo’s arm, a sort of confirmation that this ethereal, almost celestial being truly, physically, exists. It must be so. He’s touching him right now.

            “I’m not gonna clean up the mess if matunaw ka diyan,”

He hears him say. He catches Neo’s eyes behind his glasses when the man turns his head to him. Salle watches as Neo’s long lashes touch his rosy cheek when he blinks. It quick in real time, but in Salle’s vision, time slowed. Neo’s lashes separate and he finds those eyes again.

            So beautiful.

It echoes in his head as Neo’s giggle rings sweetly. Salle doesn’t know what was so funny, but he finds himself easily smiling.

And suddenly Neo’s moving out of his view.

Salle snaps of out it with a 0.5 second delay when he realizes that Neo just stepped out of the elevator because they are already on their floor. He snickers to himself and follows Neo to his unit.

 

Neo slips in the spare key that Salle gave him because his dumb boyfriend is too lost to function properly. They quietly step inside, cautious about possibly waking Cessie up. Instead of finding the unit completely dark, it is instead, completely lit. And a startled Cessie is fixed by the counter in the middle of tearing up a sachet of 3-in-1 coffee mix, with her dark and light blue hair sticking out from its bun, and nearly six levels of dark bags under her eyes.

            “Jesus.” Neo lets out, mildly startled at Cessie's current demeanor. “Are you okay?—”

            “This is my 4th cup of coffee tonight.” Cessie deadpans.

            Salle’s face sticks out from behind Neo’s shoulder. “Uy, tama na ‘yan.” He scolds her.

She maintains dead eyes with her brother as she pours the powder from the sachet into the steaming mug. Seconds of silence draw out. Cessie stirs her 4th cup, the clinking of the metal spoon filling the silence. She brings it up to her lips and slurps— all without breaking eye contact.

She swiftly turns around and silently walks back to her side, behind the divider.

Both Neo and Salle let out their held breaths. Salle scratches his head.

            “Has she eaten?” Neo asks quietly, a tint of worry in his voice.

Salle shrugs and steps inside.

The archer heads for ref by the counter. He drops his duffel bag and busies himself with getting a glass of water. Neo smiles a little and takes the initiative to prepare the take out he bought for Salle. He rummages through the cupboards he’s gotten so familiar with and sets up the table.

Salle reaches for the microwave, but then Neo slips his hand over his.

            “I’ll do it,” Neo smiles at him and pecks his cheeks.

A smile creeps into Salle’s lips and he brings the back of Neo’s hand to it. He quickly kisses Neo’s skin before stepping away.

 

Several minutes later, Salle is settled by the table while Neo places the box of wings on the table and takes a seat next to Salle.

            “Eat ka na,” He mumbles quietly. He looks up at Salle with a soft smile.

Salle could only sigh when he looks back at him. Seconds pass and he starts slipping into his trance again. Neo realizes this and rolls his eyes despite his smile. Neo moves to take the fork from Salle’s empty plate. He stabs the box of noodles and twirls it.

He brings it up to Salle’s face.

The archer’s face pulls back and brings his eyes to his food. He giggles before opening his mouth and wrapping his lips around the fork. Neo slowly slips it from between his lips. Salle starts chewing and it is the only thing that peels his eyes away from Neo’s. His eyes roll back and he moans while he chews.

            It causes Neo to laugh when he puts the fork back down. “Better than sex ba?”

Salle snickers while chewing when he turns back to Neo. He swallows down the bite and licks his lips once. He starts staring at Neo again, like it’s the only thing he knows how to do.

            “Salvador you’re a big boy na, I don’t have to keep feeding you.”

Salle giggles again. This time he leans in. Neo remains unmoving, and shuts his eyes. There’s a thrill in Salle’s softening eyes. He takes in the view of his boyfriend, easily waiting for his next move. He feels his heart flutter. Sometimes he still can’t believe it’s all real. That someone like Neo really came all the way here to surprise him. That they're really together. That he loves him and he loves him back. Must be real, right?

Salle pushes his lips to Neo’s cheek once.

It’s so simple. Minute. Miniscule. And itty-bitty gesture.

But to Salle it feels as if his bad mood from just this morning was lightyears ago. All forgotten. Nowhere to be found. As if it never happened.

With each thought, Salle places light kisses on his lover’s cheek; over; and over; and over again.

Neo hums sweetly. Having opposite academic calendars with their different universities meant while DLSU is nearing their finals week, ADMU is nearing their first week of another semester. This also meant that seeing each other regularly is difficult. It feels like ages ago since Salle’s lips touched him like this.

Salle lightly sighs into Neo’s skin, of relief? Of contentment?

Maybe it just feels like home.

Slowly, he angles his neck lower, dragging his lips down on Neo’s skin; reveling in every inch of it like it’s the first and last time he ever will. He reaches the side of his lip. He feels his lover smile. Salle savors it. He slowly drags his nose on the other’s, angling them better. Lightly; he lets their lips meet.

The simplicity of their kiss dusts both of their cheeks pink. They don’t pull away. Seconds, minutes, hours, maybe even days and weeks pass between them, between skin meeting skin, between lips pressed against each other’s, between their even breaths, between their beating hearts for only their own little world to hear.

If only they could stay like so for longer. A giggle finally reaches Neo’s lips and he pulls away. Salle stays, unwavering, apart from the light snicker that slips through.

            “You’re such a sap.” Neo mumbles quietly, as if speaking louder would shake their little world.

            “I haven’t said anything kaya,” Salle answers with the same softness.

            “You’re brain’s too loud.”

            “We must be thinking the same thing.” Is he slurring? if he is, this is the best kind of drunk Salle has every felt.

Neo sticks his little tongue out at him and he makes a face. And at this point, Neo hears something else; low and grumbling. Neo flicks his eyes down to Salle’s stomach.

            “Your stomach's being loud too,” Neo comments.

Salle shakes his head when he giggles and finally settles back on his seat. He sighs delightfully. After a few seconds, he straightens up on his chair, but before he starts his meal, he twists his neck to the side to face Neo. Again.

He reaches out to cup his lover’s cheek.

            “You make things better.”

Both of them smiles at the other, drowning in the other’s eyes.

            “You make my life better.”

It's almost as if every time they look into each other’s eyes, the whole world disappears. And just when they are about to lean in for each other’s lips once more—

 

            “We get it you’re both gay for each other.”

The light thud from the mug being placed on the table disrupts them. They both look up to Cessie who is sliding into the seat at the side of the table, nearest to the wall. She grumbles and cups her forehead with her palm. Salle snickers fondly, pulling away from Neo. His lover does the same.

            “Are you gonna eat this?” Cessie deadpans at Salle.

Salle shakes his head while giggling.

            “Go lang. Eat ka na.”

Cessie automatically drags the box of chicken wings to her with just two fingers. She picks up a wing and starts nibbling at it. Salle takes this as a cue to finally, finally, starts (thank jesus for fuck’s sake, he’s finally) eating.

 

And just like that, they all talk about how their days went. Cessie hasn’t slept for nearly two days. Her kuya reminds her to take a break. Neo seconds the motion. Then Salle asks how the flying fuck was Neo able to trespass through DLSU’s high security. Neo explains that the dummy pass they made surprisingly worked. The table erupts in laughter as Neo tells them how he should receive an Oscar for deceiving the guard. And then the lovebirds retell their encounter with Kiel. Cessie is unsurprisingly disgusted by the antic but fascinated by their petty fake-fights. Salle briefly tells Neo about the girl who gave him cookies to try and make him feel better. He quickly gets the container from his bag after the Concepcions devour most of Neo’s take out and shares it with them as a desert.

It puts a smile on Neo’s lips. He tells Salle that he’s thankful for the girl, and his coach, and everyone who cares about him. Salle is thankful for them too, especially the two people beside him at that very moment.

 

The night goes on until they all realize their hours of sleep are limited. The table gets cleared, Cessie goes back to her side, and the lovebirds divide dish washing tasks. Everything settles back to normality and casual domesticity, like how Neo makes a home of Salle’s unit has always been a norm, how Salle finds home in Neo.

And as the two settles in bed, endless promises of sweet nothings soothe their clouded minds to ease. The sweet memory of their lips touching leads them into unconsciousness.