The arena drowns in that blaring end-of-game siren and the roars of the UP side shakes the dome. The scores 97-81 glaring in red shines from the LED board that hangs above. The disheartening harsh reality of not reaching the finals dawns on the green side. The mythical legend of the UP Fighting Maroons managed to stun all of the lasallians by shrugging them off the finals. And thus, they’re left singing their school hymn with their fists held high and their hearts in the gutter.
In groups, the sea of people disperse through the exits and only a few people remained inside. A certain archer wearing his green bomber jacket in a very hot arena makes his way to the other side of the court through the bleachers. He trails the railing by his side. His line of sight follows the railing and he catches a familiar face. The figure leans on the metal by his elbows and stares out into the nearly empty court.
He noiselessly takes his place beside him, leaning his back on the railing while staring at the pretty boy’s face.
“Guess we won’t see you at the finals then.” The pretty boy says, nonchalantly.
“Aahhh well,” says Salle in a very pitchy manner, “Alam mo na, give others a chance.” He gives a light shrug as he teases.
“Sure,” Pretty boy rolls his eyes with a smirk and finally meets Salle’s eyes. “Can’t just admit that you’re all too in on yourselves, thinking you can sweep every game.”
This time Salle laughs. He waves a hand. “Nag-re-re-group lang kami, dami nang grumaduate eh.” He says in the same cocky smirk.
Pretty boy rolls his eyes again and looks away with an easy smile.
“Why,” Salle’s voice drops lower. “You guys gonna miss us?”
To which the other man merely shrugs off. “Not really, UP hasn’t set foot in the finals for 32 years. We’re honored to be playing with them.”
Salle breathes in through his nose and shifts on the railing to lean on his elbows.
“Hmm have yourselves a new rival then?”
The pretty boy smirks. His lashes dip once before turning to face Salle. “Jealous?”
An equal smirk plasters on Salle’s lips. “Not really,”
Pretty boy’s face breaks into a snicker.
Salle takes his cue to lean in, inching his lips closer to the other man’s ear.
“Kase if hindi na tayo rivals,” a pasue, “then maybe we can be friends na, hm?”
Salle pulls away and the pretty boy bends his head back in graceful laughter. He shakes his head.
Salle props his palm up and leans his chin on it as he watches the other. “If gusto mo, more than friends pa nga eh.”
Pretty boy with his pretty eyes turn his head back to Salle and it puts an unavoidable smile on the Archer’s lips. “What would more than a friend be?”
“Anything you want me to be, babe.” Salle winks at him.
Another light laugh escapes the pretty boy, and he shakes his head. “Hay nako Salle,”
Maybe Salle hums at the sound of his name from the man’s lips, maybe he doesn’t. No one knows. Salle straightens up, and slides his hands into his pockets.
“Don’t get too comfortable though,”
Pretty boy turns his head to look at him.
“We’ll bite you in the ass next season,” Salle cocks an eyebrow.
The pretty boy smirks and hums through a rush of heat. “You better.”
Salle bites his lip and nods before he turns his back on him.
“Hey Neo,” he pauses, turning his head to the side.
Neo cocks an eyebrow at him.
“Win for us.” Salle smirks. “We’re the only ones allowed to dethrone you guys.”
Neo rolls his eyes at him once again. He turns his head back to the court.
“Looking forward to it Archer.” he lets out in an easy breath.
Salle carries the same smirk with him as he walks away. And Neo’s lashes dip once before finding his eyes gravitating back to the Archer. A smile creeps into Neo’s lips.
“NEO!! TANGINA SEE YOU AT THE FINALS PARE!!” Phil’s voice comes booming into Neo’s ear as he basically runs to him. The tall and lanky isko violently wraps his arms around Neo’s neck. “32 YEARS PARE SHET TANGINA ROAD TO CHAMPIONSHIP!!”
Neo laughs despite Phil’s chokehold on him.
“Easyyyy,” He calmly pats Phil’s arm. “You’re choking me po.”
Phil’s arm loosens up but remains wrapped around Neo.
“PERO TANGINA NEO!?”
“PASOK KAMI SA TOP FOUR MEHN PUTA SHET!”
One arm unwraps from Neo and Phil’s fist shots up in the air with a loud WOOHOOO! Neo’s hand casually clasps on the write that Phil had slung over over his shoulder. They both walk to the exit in each other’s arms while Phil chanted loudly, echoing inside the empty arena.
“YUUUU PIIII PAYTING MAROONS!”
“One big fight!”
“YUUUU PIIII PAYTING MAROONS.”
“One big f-”
“U - NIBERSIDAD NG PILIPINAS, U - NIBERSIDAD NG PILIPINAS!!! WOOHOOOOOO!!”
Neo's laughter rings in Phil's head. He looks up at Phil, “Let’s go home na ba?”
“‘De! Kain muna!”
The shorter one giggles in Phil’s arms and leans on his shoulder.
“Uy nga pala,” says the Isko. Neo looks up at him again. “Tenk you nga pala ha,”
“La lang, sinamahan mo ko manood.”
A blush suddenly stains both their cheeks.
“It’s nothing Phil,” Neo hugs him from the side and the taller man returns it, nearly crushing Neo. The eagle whines and pulls away while giggling. “Besides, sino maghahatid sa‘yo ‘di ba?”
Phil beams down at him.“Oh dahil nanalo kami ngayong gabi! Libre ko na dinner mo!”
Neo giggles again and stares up at Phil with doe eyes. The man doesn’t have much, but he still gives what he can even from just the little wins. Neo nods at him and Phil throws both his arms up again, shouting in victory.
“SPEAKING OF PANALO,”
“Kita ko ‘yung kausap mo kanina ah,” Phil’s voice turns dramatically serious. “Taga lozol ‘yun ah.”
“Inaaway ka ba ‘non!? Upakan ko ‘yon.”
The shorter one pauses and throws his head back laughing. He covers his mouth with his fingers.
“Tanginaaaaa, sabihin mo lang sa‘kin kung inaano ka ‘non,” Phil punches his fist into his other palm. “Makakatikim siya ng suntok ‘ko.”
“INAANO! ... Kinakarat—”
The two unclasps from each other, erupting with laughter. They both wheeze in the middle of the corridor, hitting each other.
“‘Yun pala! AHAHAHHA,” Phil slaps Neo’s back.
Once they regain their composure they begin walking again, back in each other’s arms, still giggling like dorks. Their giggles die down, and Phil continues to tease while Neo tries to catch his breath from all the laughing.
“Mukha naman siyeng mesherep. Kaso mukhang hindi lang pwet mo wawasakin ‘nun, sa itchura niyang nakajacket sa arenang ‘yan, mukhang wawasakin din niya yung puso mo.”
“Nakuuuu-naku-naku-naku-naku Anthony pagpinaiyak ka niyan, tangina,”
Neo tries to stop Phil by smacking his arm.
“Balakajan, basta panalo kami sa finals— YUUUU PIIII PAYTING MAROONS!! WOOH WOOH!!”
People around them begins staring at them, but they both sway in each other’s arms, laughing and giggling like idiots, living in their own worlds.
Whatever the result of the game was, one thing’s for sure, nothing in their friendship will change.