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Your Favorite Pillow

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There’s something about Salle that puts you to sleep.

It’s weird because the thing is: you don’t do sleep.

Some call you a night owl with no life, while others say that you’re an insatiable workaholic. You don’t really care what they say. Names may change, but the mountain-sized pile of workload remains the same every day. Sometimes, you swear it gets bigger when you’re not looking.

Coffee is the life-support that helps you make it through the day. Add that to meager amount of sleep you get from passing out, and you’re right as rain.

Really, you’re fine. Probably. Maybe. 70% sure at the least.

Most of the time, you wake up slumped over your laptop, your notes or once, a six hundred page tome on advanced computer engineering. None of those made good pillows. It isn’t uncommon for you to wake up with a stiff neck or sore back.

Recently, however, you’ve started waking up with your head resting upon Salle’s shoulder. He isn’t exactly what you’d call an ideal “pillow”, but his sturdy shoulders are a definite upgrade from your previous ones.

The situation is a little embarrassing, but Salle never seemed to mind. Once, he had even wrapped his arm around you, preventing you from pulling away. He said that if this “was the only way to get you to sleep, then go lang, lodi.”

You bristled.

Yet you had inched closer anyway, burying your heated face in his neck—and completely missing the smile that spread on his face.

Even if it is more than a little embarrassing, you couldn’t deny that you slept better like that.

Sleeping on Salle has become a bad habit of yours. Not that you’re keen to admit it.

You wonder why you keep falling asleep on him out of all people. After all, it’s not like you doze off on Ace or Neo.

It’s not that Salle is boring or anything. It’s quite the opposite, in fact. It’s fun to talk to him, even if he does have an obsession with taking your glasses or a natural tendency to distract you from work.

For some reason, you can’t seem to get angry at him. Sure, he can get annoying, especially when he first started hanging around you. But overtime, the feelings you hold for him have mostly turned into this strange mix of fondness, exasperation, and this peculiar, chest-tightening sensation whenever he smiles in a certain way.

(Although that last bit might just be your asthma acting up.

At least, you hope it is.)

You wonder why you like him so much. The both of you are as different as night and day, sun and moon, jock and nerd.

Salle is a popular partier who goes out drinking on Thursday nights whereas you prefer keep to yourself and study during the weekends. He’s got muscular arms and a chiseled body the Greek gods would envy, while you have an equally fabulous dadbod.

Not that any of these traits make him better than you or vice versa. The differences are just astounding. How is it possible to be friends with someone who is the exact opposite of you?

Yet it is hard to miss the similarities between you and Salle. How you both play the same games. How the bags under your eyes grow deeper each time you see each other; and how he’s actually sweet and hard-working underneath all that arrogance and swagger.

You started not to mind when he messages you in the middle of the night. Somewhere along the lines, you started looking forward to talking to him about his thesis or strategizing your next play on Overwatch.

You don’t exactly know when you started feeling comfortable around Salle, but it feels... nice.

It feels nice to see his messages at 1 a.m. asking how you are. It feels nice to see his Hanzo and your Widowmaker work together and kicking ass on screen. It feels nice to lean against him while his arms are around you, a warm shield against the responsibilities and deadlines you have to face.

It feels a little less nice when he keeps pestering you in the middle of a very important project.

Resolving to ignore his loud whines and constant pouting, you keep your eyes locked on the word document on your laptop.

Nope, not falling for any distractions today. You’re gonna get your thesis finished no matter what Salle does.

The thing is: Salle is a magnet for attention, even if he doesn’t mean to be.

Maaappy, I’m bored,” he singsongs, warm breath brushed against the shell of your ear. You shiver, unable to help it, but manage not to break eye-contact with your monster of a thesis.

Damn it, Salle. How the hell are you supposed to concentrate with this?

Salle seemed to notice your reaction, for a concerned look passes over his face.

“Dude, nilalamig ka ba?” Without waiting for your reply, Salle loops his arm around your shoulders.

Damn it, Salle. How can a guy from annoying to annoyingly sweet in seconds?

God, it feels so nice to be pressed up against his side though. You relax on instinct and bask in his warmth. It becomes very tempting to lean your head on his shoulder and close your eyes for a bit...

Yeah, okay, no. Salle is totally on a mission to distract you from your thesis.

He’s not yet done, it seems. “Okay ka lang, bro? I can give you my jacket if you want.”

And just like that, your resolution not to talk to him proceeds to die a slow, dramatic death.

“I’m fine, Salle,” you say, leaning away from him but allowing his arm to rest on your shoulders. “But if you’re so bored then go do your homework.”

“Gusto ko ikaw na lang.” Salle’s voice is husky and low, so low that you almost miss his words.

To anyone else, the innuendo would be obvious, but you’re so focused on your work that it doesn’t sink in until thirty seconds later. You immediately stop typing and turn to stare at him, face a blank mask.

The Lasallian returns your bland look with a seemingly innocent one.

You’re all too aware of the weight of his arm on your shoulders, and the exceedingly small space between his face and yours.  “You… you do know that I’m demisexual, right?”

“I know.” Amusement glints in his green eyes. “I meant na ikaw na lang yung gagawa ng homework ko.”

You can’t help the groan that escapes you or the heat that rushes to your face. You cover your reddening cheeks in the guise of a face-palm.  

Salle chuckles, a pleasant sound that contrasts with his sheer annoyingness. He rubs gentle circles on your arm to reassure you that he’s not actually laughing at you.

“Cute mo, Mappy.” The grin he flashes at you is almost blinding.

You quickly look at your laptop, ignoring the way your heart fluttered at the sight of Salle’s smile. “Flattery won’t get me to do your homework.”

“Okay lang. It’s not what I really want, anyway.”

A long-suffering sigh escapes your lips. Sensing some sort of kalokohan afoot, you turn to him. “Ano ba talaga ang gusto mo, Salle?”

He puts both hands on your shoulders, leveling you with a sombre look.

Diyos ko, anong ka-dramahan na naman ito?

“I want you,” he says, and you roll your eyes, this time having expected yet another paasa pick-up line, “to sleep.”

You stare at him. “You’re gonna have to try better than that to get me into bed.”

He snickers, breaking character for a moment. “Nakupo, you’re so green-minded, Mappy!”

“Gago, that’s not what I meant.” Cheeks burning once more, you shrug his hands off and begin to type your thesis once more. Ang kulit niya. You wonder why you like him so much.

And then, he reminds you why.

“No, hey, wait a second. Don, listen to me.” The way he says your first name, uncharacteristically serious, makes your fingers still on the keyboard. “Look at me.”

You do so—and are brought up short by the sight that greets you.

It’s just Salle’s face, something you see almost everyday, now. But the dim light of a nearby lampshade contours his shapely nose, highlights his grim set of his mouth and catches the light in his intent, green eyes. You’re transfixed by his face, the rare seriousness he displays, and the sheer nearness of him.

Salle takes advantage of your dazed state and takes off your glasses. He slowly lifts a hand to your left cheek. You barely dare to move, dare to breathe as his thumb gently caresses your cheek, then brushes against the spot beneath your eye. Ah, yes, your most defining facial feature: the deep eye-bags that serve as battle-scars from countless, sleepless nights from fighting to finish your schoolwork.

The very same eye-bags that causes Salle’s brows to furrow, his eyes gleaming with concern.

“You should really get some sleep,” he says in a soft, gentle voice.

This isn’t the first time he, or anyone else for that matter, has told you that. You don’t really listen, but there’s something in the way he looks at you, the way he holds you and speaks to you, that gives you pause.

“Sige na, Mappy.” Salle drops his hand from your face. You subconsciously lean left, towards the space where his hand used to be. “Kahit isang oras lang. Gisingin kita, promise.”

“I…” You’re suddenly struck with the realization that, even without the extra incentives from your exhausted body, you want to do as he says.

You want him to be pleased with you. You want to make him happy. You want—god, you want to see that damning sunshine-smile almost as much as you want to pass your classes.

The indecision is tearing you apart. You glance at your laptop, then back to Salle’s face. You do it a few more times, finding it increasingly difficult to drag your gaze away from Salle each time.

Salle smirks. Yet he looks at you with a concerned, tender gaze that softens his usual arrogant air.

Your resolution to work wavers like a mirage in desert heat.

“You’ve typed the same sentence three times in the past five minutes.” He taps your laptop. You squint at the screen and fight the urge to wince. He’s right. “You need to rest na, Mappy. You can’t finish your thesis if you’re too tired.”

Not only is Salle too cute to resist, but he also happens to be completely rational.

With that, protests of deadlines promptly die in your throat. You sigh, shutting your laptop down.

A smile, albeit a smug one at that, lights up Salle's face. Warmth blossoms in your chest at the sight.

He had better wake you up in an hour or you’re never helping him with anything ever again. This is a threat that you loudly and repeatedly voice out to him.

He holds up a hand and swears scout’s honor. You pretend not to find that cute.

Unable to stare at him for long, lest you melt into a puddle on the floor, you settle onto the bed and direct your gaze at the ceiling instead. Despite the haze of exhaustion and the heaviness plaguing your body, you find it difficult to lose consciousness. After hours (minutes, really) of counting sheep, you sit up and look at Salle, who raises an eyebrow. “Has it been an hour yet?”

A small smile shapes Salle’s lips as he shakes his head. He sits down on the bed, gently nudging your shoulder when you involuntarily tense up. “Sige na. Alam ko naman na ako ‘yung favorite pillow mo.”

You want to protest, but Salle’s not really wrong, is he? Besides, your “favorite pillow” is already wrapping his arms around you. They feel so warm and so strong... You really don’t want to pull away.

You lean into Salle’s embrace, not noticing when or how both of you ended up lying on the bed. All you could focus on is the feeling of comfort and safety that comes along with Salle’s presence, the feeling that makes everything else disappear for just a moment.

You usually find it hard to sleep, head awhirl with thoughts of work, but somehow, you can’t bring yourself to think of any of your projects, not when you’re in Salle’s arms.