Part Thirty-Three:

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Part Thirty-Three:

The cold  rush of the water was the thing that made Alex freak out the most. She splashed around, but her head kept disappearing underneath the surface of the river. And the voices were haunting her...

Give up, they said. They don't care about you.

Your friends are laughing at you.

You're worthless.

Worthless.

Alex had enough. She was ready to die. No one cared about her, so her only option was to die.

Water filled her lungs. The voices drifted off, and Alex's head was dipping underneath the water...

•••

Sammy watched from the shore as Alex shrieked, then the boat started filling up with water.

"Alex!" Sammy and Charlie cried at the same time. Charlie tried to run into the river but Zoe grabbed his arm and held him back.

"Don't!" She cried. "You'll just make it worse!"

"But she's my sister!" Charlie argued. "I need to save her."

Sammy looked at Michael. He shrugged. "Do it, man."

Sammy knew that Michael had figured out his power. Michael was weird like that, but Sammy wasn't going to judge him.

Cautiously, Sammy slid down the river bank. He concentrated on the water, and an image of a fish. Suddenly, the world shrunk down. Just before he fully formed into the creature, Sammy dived in.

The water was colder than he had originally thought. And he couldn't breathe. Sammy thrashed about, his fins becoming heavier by the second.

Sammy concentrated again, and he thought of a dog. Preferably a dog that could swim. His snout broke the surface and strong paws propelled him forwards. Sammy dived under, and saw Alex, unconscious, lying at the bottom.

He grabbed her hand like it was a lifeline, and he was the only thing that could save her.

Sammy hauled her up, somehow the water helping him do it, and then dragged Alex to the shore and turned back into a very cold and shivering wet human.

Alex opened her eyes and stared up at him. "Why save me?" She whispered, her lips barely moving. "I'm not important."

"You are important." Sammy insisted. "You're 'the girl with the flames'. And besides, Alex, I couldn't just leave you there. And, I, um-" He leaned in close to her ear. "I think I like you."

Alex's eyes widened. "Sammy, I-"

"No, don't say anything." Sammy shushed her. "Please don't. Don't say that you're worthless and unimportant. Alex, you mean more than the whole entire world to me. You're just as important to the quest as anyone else."

Alex's eyes shut briefly. Her body suddenly burst into flames but her clothes and body didn't get a single scorch mark. Sammy was sitting close to her so he got blow-dried as well but his clothes caught on fire and he had to hurriedly pat them out.

Zoe, Charlie and Michael rushed over just as the last of the flames died down. "Are you alright?" Zoe asked.

Alex sat up and Sammy helped her to stand. He noticed how much height difference there was between them and the mole (freckle) on the right hand side of her face. Charlie glanced Sammy who was staring at his sister and raised his eyebrows. Sammy quickly looked away.

"For the moment, I'm fine." Alex said. She took a step forward but stumbled, and Sammy had to quickly wrap an arm around her shoulder to stop her from falling. Alex gave him a grateful smile.

"Who was that guy?" Michael questioned.

"Kronos." Alex explained. "Well, at least not his true form. Just a weakened version."

"At least you're okay." Charlie said.

"We need to go that way." Zoe pointed down to their right. "We'll cross back over where the Cocytus isn't as strong. Then we'll need to cross at the River Phelegeon. Shall we move on?"

Everyone looked at each other.

The quest was being to show it's true colours. Sammy wondered if it would be like this the rest of the journey - full of twists and turns, with monsters appearing around every corner.

•••

It took them an hour to find another place where they could cross back over. But by then, the five of them were exhausted and hungry so they agreed to stop and rest for a few hours.

Sammy was on first watch. After a light meal of musli bars, the others settled down in a small almost cave-like place which was practically just a stalagmite bent over at the right angle to provide sufficient protection.

After ten minutes, Sammy got bored. Charlie, Michael and Zoe were already asleep but he could see that Alex was having trouble relaxing. He couldn't blame her.

Sammy moved over to sit next to her. She was fiddling with some nuts and screws, as if they might comfort her.

"What you said earlier," Alex said quietly, putting away her stuff and turning to face Sammy. "About you liking me. Did you really mean that?"

"What would you say if I said that I meant it?" Sammy asked.

Alex smirked. "So you do like me then."

Sammy put his hands up. "I never said that!" He protested.

"You are so in denial." Alex teased, poking him in the side and giggling as he jumped at her touch.

"Okay, fine." Sammy said. "If I asked you out, what would you say?"

Alex stared at him for a moment. And then suddenly, her lips were on his. Sammy put a hand on the back of her neck and kissed her back. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and deepened the kiss. They stayed in that position for about ten seconds before Alex pulled away.

Sammy had known before then that he had liked her. When she had come stumbling into camp, dripping wet from the pouring rain, dragging an unconscious Charlie behind her and trying to escape a pack of Hellhounds, his heart had been pulled towards her. And it wouldn't go away.

Alex gazed into his eyes. "I would say, yes."

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