Part Twenty-Two:

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Part Twenty-Two:

Michael couldn't believe it had already been a week since Zoe's death.

After they had composed themselves, the group had rowed the boat back to land and worked out that they were at least three days' car journey from Vegas - where they would find an entrance to the Underworld.

Michael had been affected by Zoe's death emotionally at first, but now some of the pain had washed away. He was still extremely sad - you couldn't just lose a friend and not be sad - but he was trying to get over it and move on.

For some odd reason that he couldn't explain, Michael could sense how Sammy, Alex and Charlie were feeling about the death of their friend.

Sammy was putting on a brave face, but underneath Michael knew that he wanted to search every millimetre of the ocean floor until he found Zoe and brought her back to life. When Michael questioned him, Sammy only explained that 'I can sometimes sense when people close to me die, like my best friend Jack a few years before, but Zoe's death felt different. I felt it, of course, but it wasn't normal.'

Alex was still quite sad. She spent most of her time comforting Charlie, who had by far come out the worst. Charlie blamed himself for Zoe's death. She had saved him before, but he hadn't've been able to save her back. And that thought was slowly eating away inside of him until he would crumble into dust.

"Where to next?" Alex asked tiredly after a long night of lying on the ground in a clearing. The group felt like backpackers, forced to travel the cheap way.

"I don't know." Michael admitted. "Last night on watch I spotted some train tracks cutting through the forest a minute's walk from here. Maybe we could follow them and see if we can find a station?"

"Good idea." Sammy said, struggling to his feet from where he had been lying against a tree trunk. Charlie only nodded, choosing to remain silent. Michael figured that the best way to help Charlie deal with the grief was to let him have some space.

•••

The group found a train station after following the tracks for half an hour and headed inside. It wasn't very busy, but they still managed to purchase tickets for the 11:00 train at Platform 9. Alex had tried to joke that they were going to Hogwarts but it didn't do anything to lighten up the solemn mood.

When they got on the train, Charlie instantly choose a seat and sat down in a booth with a table in the middle like one you would find at a restaurant. He gazed out of the window. "Do you want something to eat?" Alex asked him, as Michael and Sammy slid into the seats opposite him.

Charlie shook his head. He wasn't hungry. Slowly, he leant back and closed his eyes as the train's engine started up. Everything that had happened in the past week had exhausted him immensely, and all he wanted was to shut his eyes.

•••

Zoe laughed, her eyes sparkling like clouds on a breezy, happy day. She placed her hand next to Charlie's and her fingers tickled his. Charlie's heart fluttered. He had no idea what he had said, but Zoe seemed to be enjoying it.

"Okay, you flame-head." She giggled. "What's for lunch?" Charlie pulled the picnic basket towards him and opened the lid, inspecting the food that was laid there ready to eat.

"Only the best cheese and ham sandwiches for my Owl-Brains."

"You're on! Flame-thrower!"

"Water Head!"

"Flower Vase!"

"Hey!" Charlie cried, and lunged at Zoe. She laughed and fell backwards as Charlie pinned her onto the red-and-white checkered blanket. "You're not getting away from me that easily!"

"Okay, I admit defeat." Zoe giggled. Charlie felt his cheeks heat up as he realised how close his face was to hers. Slowly, he leaned in, and Zoe shut her eyes...

Exactly a spilt second before their lips met, the grass in the meadow withered. The trees stopped swaying in the wind and the dandelions drooped, the colour disappearing from their normally beautiful petals. Zoe disappeared and Charlie was left on his own, with only a picnic blanket and a packed lunch to provide company.

Charlie buried his head in his hands and for the first time in the past few weeks, started crying. The reason why he had been bottling up his emotions for so long was because he knew that when he finally let it all out, he wouldn't be able to stop. Not even for a million dollars would he stop crying, because money couldn't buy back the dead.

"Charlie." A soft voice murmured. For a split second Charlie thought it was Zoe, but when he looked up he realised that it was his mother, Calypso.

"Mum!" He sobbed, and fell into her arms. Calypso stroked his hair and soothed him as he cried.

"Shh, stop crying, my son. You have nothing to cry about." She murmured calmly.

"But Zoe's dead!" Charlie wailed.

"Yes, that. But the gods have sent me to warn you. Zoe's mother has gone missing. Everyone is worried sick about her, but no one has found her yet. We think she's going to go down to Hades and demand Zoe back." Calypso sighed. "But she won't get anything. Hades took Zoe's soul and has captured her. Only you can save her."

"What do you mean?" Charlie sniffed.

"This is a trial by the gods. Zeus asked Hades and Poseidon to help stage the cyclops thing, then Poseidon gave Zoe a lot of water-related powers, then took them away from her. She became extremely drained and then you dumped her into the ocean. The water healed her but Hades brought her body down to his palace as she was so close to death. If you can rescue her, then you'll be worthy of going to Tartarus and Hades will grant you a safe route down. Only if you save her."

"Zoe's still alive?" Charlie asked hopefully. He sat up and wiped away his tears.

"Yes, but you mustn't tell the others. Sammy told you what Hera said, but you can't tell them about what I said." Calypso kissed her son on his forehead before the dream faded.

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