For the first time in a long time I actually woke up early by myself. I knew it was because I was excited. But whether that was excited because of paint balling; because I'd see my friends outside of school; Because of Derek or Zack - I really didn't know. It didn't take me long to get showered and changed. I ate a rushed breakfast and said goodbye to mum. Lily had said she could pick me up from the school if I needed. Which - with my lack of car or money for travel - I said yes to. It wasn't a long journey to the range. It was basically a big wooded area with pits and hills built into it with a few wooden things here and there to hide in. I was pretty sure it was the same one me and Derek went to when we little, only they'd added to it so there was also wooden “houses” crudely stuck together. They just provided better cover. Though I wouldn't use it as a hiding place because it'd be easy to get pinned there.
“Hey!” Kim shouted as she walked into the main building area. It wasn't much, a few benches and then the gear laid out for people. We weren't the only party here today.
“That makes three,” Lily said with a smile as Kim reached us. About six others joined us, all from the inner circle. I knew them and said hi to them, but that was about it. They were all friend with Derek really.
“Derek!” One of them shouted and I turned to see him arrive, high-fiving and fist bumping the other guys as he did. I tried not to meet his eyes as he approached us three.
“So, ready to get beaten?” He asked, looking far too sure of himself.
“I wouldn't be so cocky.” Everyone looked now as Zack joined. I couldn't stop the little smile that crossed my face at the site of him. He was still in the smaller military boots and without a hat, wearing loose cargo trousers and a plain t-shirt instead, his long hair tied back. I wondered if he was dressing differently to fit in better, then remembered he probably just didn't want his clothes ruined by paint pellets. The place did give us coveralls along with the guns and pellets, but paint still got through.
“Who are you?” Derek asked. I winced at how harsh his voice sounded. Derek didn't like being refuted by a complete stranger.
“Zackery Alden, who are you?” he replied with a much calmer tone, though one look in his eyes said he didn't favour Derek.
“Derek.” Zack's face showed mild shock but it was quickly covered and replaced with a smile.
“Ah, so the guy Michael's been telling me about,” He said and Derek sent me a raised eyebrow.
“I introduced the two of them a while ago,” Lily stepped in for me. Derek started to open his mouth but one of his friends – Lewis I think – interrupted him.
“Looks like James has the flu and won't be here.” The guy went back to his phone, texting a reply to James I figured. All I could think about right now was Zack's way too calm expression. Its not like I expected him to like Derek but the atmosphere between them was so tense, you could taste the fierce electricity.
“Bad luck for him,” Derek said, turning away from Zack, choosing to ignore him. I couldn't worry on it anymore as the instructor came out. He went over the basic rules. One hit, your out.
“Walk to the neutral zone with your gun in the air so people will know you've already been hit. And guys, I'd cover that area with a hand, just in case.” With that last tid-bit the instructor unlocked the gates and split us into teams. Even and odd numbers – we were all assigned a number when we booked the game. I was with Lily, Kim and three other guys from Derek’s circle of friends, including Lewis. Leaving an unhappy Derek and Zack on the other team. I really hoped things didn't turn out badly as we were told to find our hiding places within ten minutes. Once the bell rang the game started. Anyone shot a pellet before that, they would go out. I pulled the protective headgear over my head and got moving. I could still remember the best place I'd ever found and headed that way. Purposely leaving a long and confusing trail, so anyone trying to track my steps would have a hard time. The willow tree had a wide trunk and its overhanging leaves were near impossible to see through from outside. Behind it was a high wall of hedges and fence, marking an edge of the arena. Making it hard for someone to sneak up on me. There were constructed hiding places made out of congregated metal and wood. They were stained with old paint pellets and I wondered if any of them were from when me and Derek used to play this game a lot. I climbed onto a nearby branch of the willow, it was wide enough for me to sit comfortably and close enough to the main trunk and other wide branches that I could hide and still fire. The view wasn't too bad higher up. As long as the wind didn't blow too hard, I shouldn't be spotted.
The first few people to wander near me were complete strangers. I took my time taking aim and easily got them. Only one dodged but he didn't spot me quick enough and I managed to get him. I saw someone who was on my team as well but as I didn't know them, I didn't let them share in my hiding place and stayed hidden. We could identify people from the other team by the fact that they had a painted red strip on their guns, whilst ours had a blue strip. Another person from the other team wandered by and I lifted the gun to my eye, then felt something jab my back. I realised too late I'd forgotten to check my sides, damn!
“I kind of thought you'd be harder to sneak up on Mikey-boy,” Zack said and I tilted my head so I could see him.
“You know being hit by a paint ball gun at close range hurts like hell.” I had no clue if he'd listen or not. It's not like people always cared.
“Why would I shoot you? Don't want you going yet,” Zack replied, lowering his gun and moving closer. I turned fully to face him, unsure what he was doing.
“You think I'll hesitate to shoot you?” I said, raising my gun now. Zack gave it an annoyed glance before raising his pale, blue eyes my way.
“How about you shoot me when I've finished doing this,” He said. I opened my mouth to ask what “this” was, but he claimed it before the words could be spoken. His body pushed mine against the tree and for a split second I considered fighting but then his tongue touched mine and any concept of fighting was wiped clean from my mind. I felt one of his hands tangle itself in my hair while the other pulled me closer to him still. When his lips left mine, I had to fight an inexplicable urge to whimper.
“Sorry, but the moment I met Derek I knew I had to make my feelings clear,” He whispered, his lips still close enough for me to feel them brush mine as he spoke. I knew his words were important but I was still shivering from the effects of the kiss.
“I didn't realise your tongue was pierced,” I said. Zack stared wide-eyed at me for a few seconds before bursting into laughter.
“Wow, that's one response I didn't expect. I'd planned for pissed,” Zack said, his lips still close to mine. I realised with a warm sensation that I'd just had my first kiss. With Zack. And it had been amazing. I didn't bother telling him he was stupid for thinking I'd be mad. Just closed the distance between us and kissed him a second time. This time it lasted twice as long, then the bell signalling the end of the morning round rang clear.