Chapter Three

"Jack! Stop sulking and get back here!" Marcus called into the forest, the gently falling snow sapping the energy from his bellow.

"Can you see him?" asked Luke.

"Luke, Katherine, you go over there and start callin' for him. Ryan, Nathan head over there, Jillian?"

"Yes?"

"You stay here and wait to see if he comes back. There's a radio behind the counter, so just call us back if he turns up. Little moron," Marcus muttered under his breath.

*

"This is his first time up here, isn't it?"

"Jack?"

"Yeah, I think so. He must have got turned around,"

"Don't see how. It's a good size field, but it's not that big."

"I remember the first time I came out here; all the trees looked the same. Hah, Marcus put the tape up because of me."

"Jack! Where the hell are you?"

"Let's go check over there, Ryan. There's a dip in the snow, maybe he fell down."

"If he did, shotgun carrying the top-half. Is your mask starting to fog up Nate?"

"Yeah a bit."

*

"One rule, just one. Get shot, ride the pine. Well alright, there are a few more, but you get shot, straight back. Stupid city kid. Probably broken a leg, or burst into tears. I need to get some milk tonight. JACK! JACK CAN YOU HEAR ME?" Marcus paused, listening and looking hard. "Nothing. Searching for a useless-little-know-it-all in the snow is going on the Danny Glover list."

~Has he come back there yet Jillian? ~

~Not yet. How has he got so lost? Don't you have spray-painted trees with fluro arrows pointing back here? ~

~No.~ Marcus clicked off the radio. "Don't you have fluro arrows? Snide little so and so. Your daughter is annoying Harry."

*

"How long have you been playing?"

"Two years. You?"

"Five nearly. How did you get started?"

"My boyfr- My ex and I used to play a lot."

"Hah, did you beat him too much?"

"Not as much as I'd like to now. How did you get started?"

"My older brother used to play a lot with Jill's father; one day I tagged along and got hooked."

"Oh, cool. JACK! JACK WHERE ARE YOU?"

"Do you still like playing now that you've split up with what's-his-face?"

"Yeah. Actually that game was more fun than I ever had with him. I beat him all the time, but it always felt like he was letting me win. And whenever he did beat me, he was a complete jerk about it; dancing around and singing."

"Sounds like a keeper there, Kate. JACK? CAN YOU HEAR ME? JAARGH!"

"Don't. Ever. Call. Me. Kate."

"Whoa! Sorry! Just kidding around! Point that thing somewhere else."

"I'm screwing with you too, calm down."

"Good one. That was hilarious."

 "But yeah, he was dead-weight. Still ..."

"Long time together?"

"Three years."

"Yeesh. That sucks. You'll be alright though."

"What makes you say that?"

"Cute, funny paint-baller girl. You'll be fighting them off, two markers blazing."

"Haha, you're not so hard on the eyes either. Don't tease me like that or I'll plug you between the eyes."

"No seriously ... Hold up a sec. I can't see a thing in this mask."

"Have I got you all steamy?"

"Heh; cute, great paint-baller and modest. If you know how to make a decent lasagne you'd be -"

"LUKE!" screamed Katherine as Luke crumpled to the ground, clutching his face, crying out in pain.

"Yeah got him!"Katherine whipped around, staring at the figure emerging from a bush.

"JACK?"

"I got him Katherine! It's all right!" cried Jack happily as he bounded over to join her. His face, pink with exertion and glee draining instantly as he saw Luke.

"The game is over! He didn't have his mask on!" Katherine dropped to her knees over Luke, writhing in agony, gurgling and sputtering, still clutching his face. "Let me see it Luke. Come on," she said as she prised his hand away from the wound. Blood oozed from his eye, mixing garishly with the pink paint. "You idiot! Go get Marcus! Oh Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. He could lose his eye! Hurry up! That way!"

Jack dropped his marker and sprinted away, frantically crying "Marcus! Marcus! Call an ambulance!"

Luke squeezed Katherine's hand so hard she thought it was going to break. Gently she lifted his head onto her lap, keeping one gloved hand pressed hard into his eye to staunch the bleeding. "Say something Luke."

"Jesus it hurts, Kate," he gurgled and coughed, tears streaming from his good eye, which locked onto hers. "Sorry," he sobbed, his legs scrabbling as a fresh wave of pain washed over him.

"Call me whatever you want; just stay awake."

"Still think I'm pretty?"

"You'll be even more dashing with an eye patch. Where the hell are they?"

"It's not so bad," he lied to her through gritted teeth.

"Don't be a hero."

Luke sighed heavily, "Oh well."

"Oh well what?"

"It's not like in paint-balling you need depth perception anyway."

The End

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