Disclaimer: I don't own the Furnace series. I sure as hell wish I did, but, alas, I do not.

Chapter 2: Surprise Visit

I made my way, quietly, down the dark cavern, bumping into walls here and there, scraping my arms on the rock. I didn't care, though, I had Donovan back, and Toby was still alive. Now, if I could just grab Toby and Zee, it'd be perfect. We'd be free. Except…I was leading my friends into a death trap, and I damn well knew it. Our last escape attempt via the river was a complete disaster. We were nearly shredded by the sharp rocks along the water. Hell, we'd be lucky if we didn't drown this time, or worse. Sure, it was almost hopeless, but it had to be better than the alternative. The memory of me smothering the blacksuit that used to be my best friend played itself in my head. I shuddered. It's okay, Alex, that's over now. That never happened. You're making amends. You're fixing your mistakes. After you make for sure that Donovan doesn't get taken, you'll go from there, I told myself.

"So, basically, you're just gonna wing it," a familiar voice called from behind me. I wheeled around and found myself staring at Donovan's apparition. "Alex, since when does winging it work?"

"How are you here?" I stammered. "You're alive and well, Donovan. Unless…" The words caught in my throat, too horrible to say aloud.

"No, don't start thinking like that. That universe is long gone. I am, indeed, alive and well in this version of reality," he said. "But if you jump in that river, I can assure you, it'll end the exact same way it did before."

"What do you want me to do, D? This is gonna end badly no matter what we do. I'd honestly rather die in that river than become one of those blacksuits," I argued. "If you have any more brilliant ideas, I'd be glad to hear them, but otherwise, shut your trap. As you can see, I'm kind of busy trying to save your ass."

"All I'm saying, Alex, is that you need to make a new plan. You need to find a way out of here that doesn't include that river," he explained calmly. "Use that head of yours for something other than to part your ears. You've got brains, kiddo. You're a lot smarter than you think you are…plus, you've got me to help this time and, I don't know, I consider myself pretty intelligent."

I couldn't help but laugh. "Of course you are, Donovan," I said sarcastically.

"Ha-ha, you're so bloody hilarious, Alex. Now, get your ass in gear and break us out of here, kid. I gotta feeling that as a team, we can make this happen," he smiled. "And listen, before I go, I wanted to thank you."

"For what?" I asked.

"For what you did there in the Infirmary. I can't imagine how hard that must've been on you," he said, putting a hand on my shoulder. There was a certain warmth where his hand was, it was the warmth that'd kept me going in solitary when I believed all to be lost. "I'm sorry you had to do that, but trust me, it was for the best. And I don't blame you in the least. In the end, before the nectar took over, I understood that you did the best you could. I never blamed you, Alex, not once. Cross and Furnace did this, Alex, not you, I can promise you that."

I felt tears burn the corners of my eyes. "You really mean that?" I asked apprehensively. "I failed you, Donovan. I promised I'd come back for you, and…"

"You did. You did come back for me. By that time, I was done for. I think a part of me knew that when you were forced to leave me behind that day. And yes, of course I meant that. I've always given it to you straight, buddy. If I thought for a second that you'd fucked up, I would've let you know, but you didn't. You did great, kiddo, I promise you that." he smiled warmly. "And I need you to do one last thing for me, Alex. Actually, it's the reason why I'm here. Anyways, I need you to stop blaming yourself for my death."

"But…" I began.

"No buts. Promise me you'll stop blaming yourself," he was wearing a serious expression now. "Cause if you don't, its gonna eat you up, and that's the last thing I want for you. Alex, you made life here almost enjoyable. Hell, you saved my life Alex. You gave me hope. That's something I haven't had since the day I walked in here. And I'll never be able to thank you enough."

I didn't trust my voice enough to respond.

"Remember, be smart, kid. Make me proud," he said as his image began to fade. "And, seriously, remember what I said about everything. Goodbye, kiddo. I'll be keeping my eye on you." And with that, his image faded completely, leaving me standing alone in the middle of the tunnel, a warm, comforting feeling filling me up, giving me newfound strength in my quest. I would get my friends out of here, no matter what. I made a promise, and I was going to keep it. With a deep breath, I walked on,a giant smile on my face as Donovan's words replayed in my head.

A/N: Sorry for how short this one is, guys, but I figured Alex needed to hear this if he was ever going to be successful in his escape. Thank you guys for reading, and don't worry, the next one will be longer and more interesting. And to those of you who didn't see that last A/N, I posted and original story on called Roanoke, Colorado. I've worked on the story for over a year and I have ten chapters posted there at the moment. Anyway, I'd love it if you guys took the time to take a look at it. Maybe send me some feedback or something. As I said, I'd like it to go somewhere, so... Thanks again for reading, and another chapter will be on it's way soon.