Chapter 6: No Kiss Goes Unpunished

"Boys, they like to play with things
to see what makes them run,
but when it comes to kissing,
they do it just for fun


"Need help getting home, Sam? Do you want me to carry you? " Zack kindly offered his services as he batted his eyelashes at me and I almost fell for his trap. With almost being the cooperative word here. In no way was I going to let him play me for a fool. How many times did I need to get burned to learn that if I knew what was best for me, I shouldn't play with fire? That is, if I didn't have some sadomasochistic side I didn't know of.

As far as I knew, keeping my sanity intact was my top priority because any smart girl knew never to let a boy mess with her just for the love of the game. And Zack was pulling my leg, all right. I no longer found his merciless teasing funny. Now, to me, his eyes shone a little bit brighter, when he smiled, his lips stretched a little bit wider, and when he touched me, I felt a little bit lighter, almost in a trance.

Now was just the right time to put my foot down and say that enough was enough. I'd reached my limit.

"I can walk just fine on my own, thank you very much," I panted, short of breath and seeing stars before my eyes as I tried to ignore the protests of my muscles, of my legs which all but wanted to give out underneath me, introducing my backside to the ground. Thankfully, my dignity prevailed over my desire to lie down, or let Zack give me a piggy ride back home, although the offer tempted me more than I would like to admit. If last week had never happened, I would've been the first to jump on Zack's back and make him sweat a bit, but as things stood right now, my ego wouldn't let me back down and for whatever reason I felt obliged to show to him that I was perfectly capable of taking care of myself.

Zack was still grinning annoyingly and I was so glad that my misfortune was a source of entertainment for him. I was pleased that he found me so amusing, even if I'd barely spoken a word to him. Really, I was. I was so touched because apparently, I'd chosen the wrong career path. I should've become a comedian instead.

Ah, at least the old Samantha was back.

This was the only comforting thought that warmed my heart as I straightened up and tried not to wince. There was not one part of me that wasn't in some kind of pain. Every inch of my body was hurting. My joints, my lungs, my legs, my heart…

How I didn't topple backwards was beyond me because my whole body was against me, screaming at me to stop this torture. You could easily become a prisoner in your own mind once confusion takes over your thoughts. No wonder my head was throbbing.

"What? Is there something funny?" I demanded to know, putting my hands on my hips and the effect would've been more daunting and memorable if I hadn't coughed up a lung afterwards.

"I'm just amazed by how out of shape you are, shorty," Zack chuckled and if I had any strength (first, to shove him, and second, to touch him at all, even with a stick, considering our current circumstances), I would've definitely taught him how a lady should be treated. Not that I was a lady, by any means. I was as far from one as a girl could possibly get without being either a boy or a travestite.

For the record, I wasn't short. I stood at five feet six, mind you, which is a completely acceptable height for a girl and I was well-proportioned. It wasn't my fault that everybody looked like a dwarf, compared to Zack, who had to bend down every time he walked through a door. Well, not really, but you get the general idea. Although some of the guys he worked with were giants who had such humongous hands (paddles was the more correct word) that they could crush my skull between those said bare hands.

Besides, he had got used to being around girls who were almost his height, but we can't all be inspiring models now, can we?

"Why, thank you, Captain Obvious," I sneered, brushing wet strands of dark hair out of my eyes and then I fixed my high ponytail. Even my sarcasm didn't have its desired effect as Zack continued to watch me in aggravating silence, waiting me to snap and so never one to disappoint, snap at him I did.

"What?" I actually stomped my foot, which earned me another good-natured chuckle from Zack, who took a step towards me and I had to tell myself to stay put and not step back, like was my first reaction. He raised his eyebrows at me slightly, probably wondering if we were as okay as I said we were, but then the frown disappeared from his face and was replaced by his trademark grin, one that could easily light up a room, one that could also just as easily make my heart drop in my feet and I wanted my heart to be just where it was – in my chest, where it was safe and out of everybody's reach, his especially.

"I don't know… I just got to say it, Sam, and I know you're going to hate me for it, but you're so cute when you're mad," he said to me jokingly, pinching my cheek lightly before he rested his forehead against mine and I had to fight every urge to pull back as his hot, minty breath fanned across my face. It was like he'd brushed his teeth just for me, because he was waiting for the right timing to do that, to get me alone and at my most vulnerable. I didn't need to be told twice that my best friend was a tease because I actually knew him better than he knew himself, so I knew the ways his mind worked in, but even familiar with his womanizing ways, Zack made it so easy to get sucked into his eyes that had specks of gold around the iris and everything about him was so beautiful that… it hurt. It hurt me to look at him.

"Quit fooling around, Zackary," I took hold of myself and my emotions as I pushed him away from him and he stumbled backwards, caught by surprise. I glared at him, so he could remember to keep himself in check, but Zack was hardly intimidated by the warning look I shot him, and even if his smile faltered a bit, it didn't fall from his face. He kept smiling, like nothing was wrong, like everything was fine, like I'd suddenly said the most hilarious thing ever, which - in return - made me feel like a laughingstock.

I rolled my eyes at him then because I didn't want him to know that he was getting to me at all. He wasn't even acting out of the ordinary. He was still being… Zack. Hard to handle, but definitely not impossible.

"Maybe it's time you cut down on the booze and cigarettes, baby. Look at how hot and bothered you are after one lap! Even my grandmother could last longer than you! This is not good for your health, Sam," Zack clicked his tongue, shaking his head at me and having the nerve to sound patronizing, like he, of all people, had any right to talk. He partied more than anybody else I knew and yet he was fine. Health-wise, of course. Mentally, he was damaged beyond repair.

And was I the only one who didn't miss the sexual innuendo right there? Right before he started talking about his dead grandma?

Jesus, Zack, where's going on inside your mind?

No, to save myself I actually needed to cut down on Zack time.

"I appreciate your input, Zack," I replied dryly, "but now, maybe you should just shut the fuck up," I wish I raised my voices at him, but instead it sounded more like I was having a coughing fit, so I gave up on trying to intimidate him because Zack was immune to my scathing remarks or foul moods. He'd dealt with me for longer than anybody else I could think of. Even Sadie, my sister, had her moments when she couldn't wait to wipe her cleans from me.

Tired, I went to sit down on the pavement without waiting to hear Zack's response and I curled my knees to my chest, resting my chin atop them and letting out a wretched sigh.

I risked taking a quick glance at Zack who still hadn't moved and was looking down at me almost tenderly, as if I was a kicked, wounded puppy he'd found, left on the side of the road.

"What are you so smiley about?" I asked, suddenly scared by the maniacal gleam in his eyes. No, it wasn't that. He was just being so quiet, so thoughtful, so not like Zack.

"I'm just in a good mood, that's all," he responded cheerfully and the smile he gave me was nothing short of blinding, but it was me he was smiling for this time, not the cameras, so I wasn't dazzled by it.

"I can see that," I murmured lowly as he came to sit down beside me and we both stared ahead, me trying to get my breath back and with Zack leaning back on his hands.

It was true, though. Zack's temper when provoked could rival my own and so far, I'd given him enough reasons to get back at me.

"You can go, you know? I just need a second to rest," I told him at which Zack turned to me, affronted, and he put a hand over his heart, like it was me who had hurt his feelings.

Give me a break, please.

"Are you trying to get rid of me, Samantha?" Zack gasped, and although his tone was jesting and his eyes were laughing, his assumption couldn't have been more spot on. I rolled my eyes at his childishness and flair for dramatics because it wasn't fair that when he got to overdramatize, he was adorable, and funny, and brilliant, and all kinds of wonderful while when I tried to be a little bit more selfish and put myself first and before everybody else, I was on a bitch fest, or was acting like a total drama queen.

"Zackary…," my voice trailed off as I let him figure out the rest. Don't go there, don't start this, my eyes were saying, but he disregarded my forewarning and went on, undisturbed.

"Do you want to get rid of me already?" he repeated, but there was some seriousness to his words that I didn't detect the first time. "Am I making you uncomfortable, Sammy?" he grinned cheekily as he bumped his shoulder into mine playfully and a jolt of electricity shot through my whole body. Zack's skin was electric, I mused as goosebumps rose all over the length of my body and the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. He was just warming up.

"Ah, don't be embarrassed! I'm pretty sure there are dozens of ninety year old ladies out there who can't outrun you, Sam, with their arthritis and all," Zack teased me and a smile bloomed on my face on its own account. It was too late when I realized what I was doing and I saw that Zack had noticed it, too.

"Aha, I think I saw a smile! Come on, Sam, smile for me. You know you want to," Zack sang out and before I knew what I was doing, hypnotized by his eyes, I started grinning like a fool. Obviously, seizing the opportunity, Zack began tickling me all over, making me laugh like a hyena as tears pooled at the corners of my eyes, begging him to stop through a round of giggles.

"Zack? Sam?" a voice, a vaguely familiar and tentative, almost scared voice broke my trance and, at once, both Zack and I looked at each other questioningly, trying to figure out if the other had heard it, too. Coming to terms with the fact that yes, this voice wasn't only in our heads, but actually belonged a real human girl, I glanced around curiously and my heart just about stopped beating.

There, standing over us and watching us roll around in the grass, was Zack's only real girlfriend, Melissa Johnson.

Oh, shit, I thought to myself, panicked, as I realized the compromising position we were in with Zack straddling me and with his hand up, way up my shirt.

And there I spent two years reassuring this same girl that there was nothing going on between me and her boyfriend.

Zack, apparently reading my innermost thoughts, sprang away from me, as if our parents had just walked in on us doing the horizontal tango. He then pulled me to my feet before I could register what was happening and turned to Melissa with a pleasant smile on his face.

"Melissa, hi," he greeted her warmly, as if this girl didn't have her heart broken by him, as if she hadn't spent two years of her life trying to get him back, instead of get over him.

I envied his optimism. Really, I did.

And when they shook hands like old friends, it was almost not awkward. It wasn't awkward, that is, until I held out my hand and she held out her arms. I wasn't big on the hug thing, but figuring that it couldn't possibly kill me to be nice, I stepped into Melissa's open arms, half-expecting her to snap my neck. I patted her back awkwardly before I pulled away and went to stand beside Zack, using him as my human shield.

"I didn't know you guys are here," Melissa said as a conversation starter and she was being pleasant enough, even if I could see the doubt in her eyes.

Funny that she'd say that, though, considering I talked to Carl a few days ago and he was very much aware I was here.

"Well, we're only staying for one more day. Tomorrow, we have to go back to New York," Zack explained and I was surprised to see that he was at his best behavior. He only talked like this when there were adults in the room. Melissa was his first love and I'd always thought he'd have a special spot in his heart for her, but he was talking to her like she was a perfect stranger, someone who had never meant anything to him and I knew that Melissa was scorned by that, by his polite indifference.

"Didn't you live in Massachusetts, Sam?" Melissa queried, cocking her head to one side and the calculating, yet accusing look in her eyes made it hard for me to think. Why did I feel like I'd done something wrong?

"I-," I started to say, but Zack beat me to the punch line.

"Actually, Sam moved to New York to live with me," he said as matter-of-factly and I gulped down, thinking that this was the worst way possible to do this. Before Zack screwed it all up, Melissa used to be my friend. I was really proud of Zack for dating a girl who didn't mind that his best friend was a girl. All changed, however, when he broke things off between them and I became the prime suspect in Melissa's (hit) list as to why he did that. Then she went psycho on me and for a few weeks followed me around, trying to catch me in the act of seducing her boyfriend. It took me years to assure her that Zack and I, we didn't roll like that, and we even managed to part on friendly terms. Now, it all went down the drain with Zack declaring that we lived together, like the happy couple we weren't.

"Really?" Melissa didn't bother hiding her surprise as she looked at me coldly and her gaze went right through me. She officially hated me now for taking away the love of her life.


My life, the soap opera. Have you heard of it?

"Are you… are you two together?" Melissa asked us curiously as she alternated her stare between us, searching for any sign that we would lie to her, because she knew I would lie to her. That is, if there was anything I needed to lie about.

Together together?

No, I could never put myself through the torment that a relationship with Zack implied.

I'm going to take a pass on that.

But then-



"Yes?" Both Melissa and I stared at Zack, dumbfounded and with our jaws hitting the floor. He nudged me in the side, willing me to play along with his little game. I shook my head no because no way was I covering for him this time.

No way in hell.

"Neither of us wanted this to happen, but it just kind of did. Some things are meant to happen. Isn't that right, babe?"

Babe. He called me babe. Zack must've been out of his mind.

First, he kissed me out of the blue because, apparently, he felt like it and now? Now, he was basically putting my life in danger by feeding Melissa this bullshit about us being together.

What needed to happen right now was for him to get real. Or get lost. Because I honestly couldn't stand looking at him when he joked around, blind to the pain he was inflicting on those around him. Like Melissa, why did he have to be so cold to her? The only wrong think she ever did was to love him and look where that got her.

"Whatever you say, sweetie-pie," I replied sickeningly sweetly, resisting the urge to smack him upside the head.

Sadly, my loyalty was with him and no matter how big of an asshole Zack was, I couldn't turn my back on him because even when my brain was telling me one thing, my lips were speaking another.

I hadn't meant to follow his lead and yet just like our supposed relationship it kind of happened because sometimes when it came to Zack, I had no backbone.

"That's weird," Melissa remarked and she didn't sound angry at all. She almost sounded smug about it, which made me do a double take. Was it possible that she'd finally shaken her fixation on Zack?

Either way, there were plenty of things wrong or just plain weird with the picture.

I didn't know where to start, so I looked at Melissa, hoping to find the answer I was searching for.

"Weird how?" Zack took the words out of my mouth, clearly at a loss like I was.

This was the reaction I was hoping for, but definitely not the reaction I was expecting. Melissa used to be crazy about Zack. I wouldn't have been surprised if she bought every magazine that had featured a story on him. It was the kind of thing the Melissa from my past would do.

"Well," she started, twirling a curly blond lock around her finger and shrugging one shoulder, "Mike and I are a couple now, too."

Another dizzy spell hit me and I was grateful that Zack was standing behind me, so instead of falling backwards, I leaned on him and allowed him to put his arm around my waist not because this was something a boyfriend would do, but because if it wasn't for him, I'd collapse.

Like Zack was the dream guy for Melissa, Mike was the man of my dreams – everything I'd always wanted and never had.

We'd dated briefly in high school before Zack managed to chase him out of my life, too. Still, Mike was always in the back of my mind; I found myself searching for him in the crowd, wishing we'd cross paths again.

"Say what?" I echoed, thinking that the universe was playing one big, cruel joke on me at my expense.

But this was what I got for lying to save Zack's skin. I had mine stripped off my back.

"Yes, I didn't want to tell you at first because I didn't want to upset you," you, meaning me, "but we've been together for three years now," Melissa announced proudly as she puffed her chest out and I got a little bit green in the face not because I was jealous of what she had, although I wouldn't mind stealing her man away from her, that is, if I could ever find in me to do something like that, but because I was feeling nauseous, not jealous.

I wasn't really jealous yet.

Three years. Three years and nobody bothered to tell me about this. How could I have not known?

"I guess we're even now," Melissa smiled – no, more like smirked at me and something within me died. Was she getting back at me? Did she really love him, or was it her last shot at hurting Zack? Didn't she know that Zack's ego was big enough for him to brush it off like nothing? She was hurting me instead. Or it might've been me, after all, that she was aiming for all along.

"Um, congratulations, Mel. That's great to hear," Zack played his role and I could tell by the sound of his voice that he wasn't worried about Melissa moving on from him, he was worried about me trying to relive my past again. He squeezed my hand and I squeezed his right back because regardless of how angry I was still at him, he was still there when everybody else left. It would be stupid of me if I didn't push our differences and confrontations aside just this one time.

"Actually, we're having a small get together tonight, just us and the old gang, so it would be lovely if you came. Everybody would be so happy to see you," Melissa said excitedly, but her false cheerfulness aside, she was seething in rage on the inside. I had her man, but then again, she had mine, and yet we would never be even until I said so.

"Thanks, Mel, but we-"

"We'll be there," I cut him off before Zack blew my last chance of seeing Mike again and seeing for myself just how happy the happy couple really was. Besides, maybe I was a sucker for pain, but a part of me that I'd never rest until I put this behind me.

Zack's body went rigid as his breath caught in his throat. Unlike me, he had never felt the need to match his strength with anyone, he was the one people looked up to; he was the one who had it all. He would've been content knowing that Mel had found somebody else to torture and that would've been the end of it.

But what was the end for him, was just the beginning for me.

To her credit, Melissa didn't look surprised at all.

"Great!" she clasped her hands together and I could almost see the little demon and angel on her shoulders. "You know where I live, so I guess I'll see you later, guys!"

She sauntered off, putting just a little twist in her hips to force you to look after her long after she was gone. I guess it aimed to grab Zack's attention – her last chance to remind him what he'd missed out on, but instead his fervent gaze was fixed on my face only.

"What the fuck, Sam?!" he growled at me, throwing his hands up in the air frustratingly before he clenched his hands into fists, probably trying to restrain himself from knocking my teeth out for voluntarily stepping into the lion's den.

Lovely, Melissa had said. It would be lovely if you came.

I'd show her just how lovely I could be, all right.

"Well, I guess we're going to a party, then," I said, shrugging as I patted Zack's cheek.

The sooner he realized this, the better.

No kiss goes unpunished, sweetheart.


A/N: Hey-lo, lovely people ^^! I'm pretty fast, aren't I? Yeah, maybe something good comes out of being insomniac, huh? Anyways…

Review=love. Don't be shy, reviews make me happy and when I'm happy, I update. Simple as.

Big thanks to everyone who reviewed the last chapter. I'm so glad you liked it, guys :).

And to Ana: Off the record, in real life I prefer the nice guys over the arrogant jerks, too. But Zack's too fun to write about ;).

Stay tuned!

Cheers ^^!