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Rose Drops

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“Are you crying?”

“I am not! I've just got... Something in my eye...!” The blue hedgehog muttered. Sonic swiped an arm cross his flushed muzzle, trying to resist another sob. The last thing the hero wanted was to cry in front of her of all people.The pink hedgehog wrinkled her nose at him.

“Gross, c'mon, don’t do that!” she scolded lightly, handing her friend a tissue. Sonic rolled his eyes, accepting it.

“thanks, Ames.” Amy smiled, a hand over her mouth in a poor attempt to hide a satisfied giggle.

“I never thought you would be the type to cry over something like this. This means I win right?” The hero hated to admit defeat after just three movies, but Amy had him beat fair and square. He glanced over at Shadow, the dark anti-hero sleeping soundly across from them in an armchair. Lucky bastard.

The pink hedgehog had invited the two heroes over for a movie night. She had set out snacks, board games, and festive party decorations in her living room that Shadow commented were 'a bit much' for three people.

Late in the evening, After a careless statement on Sonic's part about girls being ‘emotional’ , the simple get-together had turned into a ridiculous competition of who would last the longest watching sad movies. Shadow reluctantly agreed to be the referee, but the ultimate life form soon fell asleep an hour into ‘The Notebook’. Sonic and Amy had hardly noticed, both of them watching the other for any slip ups.The final movie chosen was titled ‘Forrest Gump’. Amy seemed more excited about this particular movie than Sonic was, and something told him that was a bad sign.

Now here he was, the hero of Mobius, crying his eyes out at three in the morning over a Tom Hanks movie.

And Amy looked as if she had just won the lottery.

“Yeah, fine you win.” the blue blur replied, narrowing his eyes.

“I still think you cheated; you were way too excited for this movie for some reason!”The girl shrugged, still smiling as wide as ever.

“I know you're a sucker for underdogs is all. It's not cheating.” Sonic pouted crossing his arms over his chest. He may have admitted defeat, but he was still going to complain about it.

“well what did you expect? I mean that Forrest guy did everything for that what's-her-name girl. He chased her for years and she STILL leaves him in the end! I mean that’s messed up, he loved her more than anything and she knew that. I mean, who does that--”

Sonic cut himself off abruptly as he turned to Amy. If the hero had not been paying attention, he would have missed it entirely. The brief, dark expression in those teal eyes. Something about it had made time stop altogether.At first, the hero wanted to ask her what was troubling her. She seemed fine a minute ago, right? The words dried up in his mouth the moment he realized what he had said. His pointless rant opening old wounds that had healed a long time ago.

If Amy knew Sonic caught on, she did not give it away. Her friendly grin still present, but slowly fading. The pink hedgehog’s teal eyes became glossy as she turned away, pausing the movie. Sonic suddenly felt his stomach turn.The room was quiet. Too quiet.

He did not know what she intended to say, but the hero was not prepared for it.

“I have to go, I'll be right back.” he mumbled quickly. Amy nodded, still flicking through the pause menu. She seemed to be avoiding his gaze altogether.

“Ok...Have a good night.” she replied quietly. Sonic slipped over to the armchair and pulled his varsity jacket off of Shadow’s lap.

He stopped for a moment. Should he wake him? Should he tell him that he was leaving?‘

No.’ Sonic thought quickly. ‘He’d just chew me out about it anyway...’

Without another word, the cobalt hero sped out of the door as quickly as he could, leaving the small, quiet neighborhood in a flash of blue. He felt guilty for saying he would be back, but saying goodbye felt a million times worse. The lights of downtown flew by him, dancing across his vision, but all the hero could see were those tearful eyes. Suddenly the world felt too small and he put on another boost of speed, eager to get home.

The familiar silhouette of Tail's workshop through the trees could not have come any sooner. Panting heavily the blue hedgehog slammed his hand on the front door to catch his breath the moment he reached it. It probably was a bad idea to use up so much energy for a simple run home, but at least he had something else to focus on besides the crawling anxiety in his stomach.

Suddenly, the hero stood up, rigid. He realized Amy had said something to him in his mad rush to escape.

“Have a good night.”

He shook his head in disbelief.

‘She already knew I wasn’t coming back.’

Slowly, the hedgehog put the key into the door, trying to think of how he would make it up to her. He couldn’t leave things like this, Sonic knew. Amy would ignore it, forgive it like she always did, but he was too old to rely on her for making things right again.

“I’ll take her someplace tomorrow as an apology. I’ll tell Shadow so he makes sure I don’t forget.” He nodded to himself, confident of his plan. He had no idea where he would take her or when, but Sonic was always good at planning things under pressure. Tomorrow he would fix everything. Tomorrow would be better and she would smile and laugh like she always did.

But...being Sonic, he ultimately forgot about it anyway.

Amy was busy for the first few days with college classes. Whether this was a coincidence or on purpose Sonic didn't know. Eventually he forgot to talk about it with Shadow, and the event was swept away altogether. Months went by, and Amy had smiled and laughed many times after that day, as if the event had not mattered. Reflecting on it, the blue hero realized that perhaps it wasn’t that big of a deal; they were still friends, and nothing had changed. Friends make mistakes, and he would make many more in the future.

So why was that one mistake all he could think about right now?

Sonic had not slept well since he had heard the news. He had not asked any details and Shadow didn't give him more information.

Sonic sat by himself on the fire escape of the sandy apartment building, squinting his eyes at the sun peeking through the buildings of the city. A shaky sigh left him as he leaned against the open window frame.

He thought he was ready. it had been a week, and Sonic had sworn that no matter what he would show up with the same reassuring smile that he was known for. He needed to talk with Amy properly.

It had been three hours since it started, and Sonic knew that he had missed his chance. The blue hedgehog's absence alone told the world what he felt; He had lost.

The soft thud of a door broke him out of his thoughts. Sonic didn't turn around to see who it was, he already knew.

"People asked where you were."

"Did you tell them?"

The ultimate lifeform undid his tie slowly, thinking.

"I told a few of them it was none of their business. However I believe Rouge has an idea that you were hiding at my place. I refused to let her stay here tonight."

"Oh wow, having a lady over at your apartment this late? I didn't know you were that kind of guy, Shads."

"Shut it, Faker. She's just nosey is all."

Sonic chuckled lightly, stepping off the fire escape into the apartment. He sat in the windowsill, his back to the hazy pink sunset lighting up the cityscape. Any other day, this would have been peaceful. He and Shadow bantering as usual. But today it was different somehow. The world felt hollow and unreal, and Sonic used all of his energy just to breathe. Even Shadow's insults lost their usual edge.

"Are you alright?" Shadow asked softly, removing his suit.The blue hero nodded.

"Yeah."

The ultimate life form glanced over at him, unconvinced. Sonic was still dressed but the tie was hanging weakly over his neck, the sleeves of the suit crumpled and rolled up to his elbows.

"You've ruined the suit." he commented dryly. Sonic shook his head slowly, a sad smile making its way onto his face.

"I went for a run." he stated flatly. "I just needed to think about what I was gonna tell her." Sonic shrugged.

"I still feel bad y'know?"

The black hedgehog's gaze softened on the hero, unable to think of a proper reply. He looked out the window behind Sonic briefly.

"It's getting late. You could tell her now."

The hero didn't respond, resting his chin in his hands. The cloudy look in his eyes telling The ultimate life form that his rival had not heard a word he said.

Shadow folded his suit, trying to keep his hands busy as he thought to himself. He was not the best at offering help to others, and wracked his brain trying to find the right words.

"We could race."

Sonic's ears perked up slightly at the suggestion, the dark hedgehog allowing himself a brief smile. No matter what happened the faker couldn't resist a race.

"Yeah," Sonic said shakily. His eyes were a little red, but more focused than before. He stood up to stretch, letting out a deep sigh as he shifted.

"I'm ready when you are."

Chapter Text

Pink.

If Shadow had to describe where he was being held hostage to GUN reinforcements in one word, it would be Pink.

Nauseatingly, obnoxiously Pink.

To be fair, that's three words, but accurate in his opinion.

The ultimate life form found himself sitting in what he assumed was a giant wedding cake. Rouge claimed it was Amy's bakery, but Shadow was skeptical about that. The endless frills and lace fringing every possible nook and cranny in existence didn't help her case either.

For whatever reason, the bat had coaxed the brooding hedgehog into tagging along with her to visit Amy for their weekly chats at the bakery after hours. The two stayed in touch fairly often over the years to keep up with how everyone was doing. Eggman had been long gone and GUN took up most of their free time, so Shadow and Rouge rarely had a reason to see Sonic and his friends anymore.

For the life of him, Shadow could not understand why the bat insisted on ruining a good thing.

He vaguely recalled Rouge mentioning something about 'making friends' and 'old hermit' but the dark hedgehog must admit he wasn't listening at the time. He just wanted to get whatever plans she had in mind over with.

"Oh we'd love to dear, thank you." the white bat drawled suddenly, Shadow perking his ears at her tone. Amy nodded and got out of the booth, hurrying her way to the back room behind the sickly pink counter.The dark hedgehog had been sitting in the booth across from Amy and Rouge, drifting in and out of the conversation. He glared at Rouge, silently demanding an explanation.

"Oh relax," She said, waving him off.

"Amy just asked if we wanted to try her latest cake for culinary class." His teeth hurt at the thought of whatever sugary nightmare the pink hedgehog would bring them.

"I don't want any cake."

"Shut up, yes you do."

Shadow was ready to argue, but Amy came back in shortly after with her newest creation. A dark wine-colored cake drizzled sparingly with vanilla icing. in the middle sat a few candied raspberries and strawberries.

Shadow had to admit, he was partial to strawberries.

"It's a special kind of Rum Cake Ms.Vanilla helped me make," Amy explained, placing it delicately on the table. She slipped a small cutting knife out of her apron and began slicing large wedges for each of them.

"A little different from my usual brand, but I think it came out really well."A gasp left Rouge as she leaned over the table, looking at every angle of the cake.

"It looks absolutely wonderful! Oh, Should you really be giving us so much of it? It's for your class right?"

"Don't worry, don't worry," the girl smiled placing a wedge in front of Shadow.

"I made two of them. One for class and one to share. Eat as much as you like."The bat needed no further coaxing and took a large bite out of her piece. A few exaggerated moans left her before she finally was able to speak.

"Mmm! This is amazing, dear," She said halfway through her second bite. She seemed entirely engrossed in the cake as if it were the last one on Mobius.

"I love it."

"Aw, Really? I'm glad it turned out so good." Amy said sheepishly. Her eyes made their way to Shadow with anticipation. The black hedgehog shrugged and decided to try it before Rouge came back to her senses. Agonizingly slow, he cut a small piece and lifted it to his mouth, expecting the worst.

The worst actually tasted pretty damn good.

The cake wasn't sugary as Shadow had feared. It was spicy and savory with a hint of sweetness from the icing, and a lasting aftertaste from the rum. The ultimate lifeform realized Amy had been staring at him for several seconds unmoving. Rouge was too, now entirely finished with her piece and waiting for him to give up his.

"It's good," Shadow commented quietly. He took another bite, hoping to discourage that greedy look in the bat's eyes. This piece was his, dammit.

"Ah good!" Amy nodded smiling.

"Rouge told me you aren't fond of overly sweet things so if you like it, that's wonderful." Her whole body relaxed and Shadow noticed she had been holding her breath the entire time. Was his opinion really that important?

Amy seemed more relaxed in general, unlike how tense he remembered she use to be. Back in the old days, the young girl was wary of him despite her insisting to everyone that he could be a good person. She was especially wary of him anytime Sonic was around. Shadow didn't blame her; his reputation had been sketchy at best. Somehow the change felt reassuring.

"So Shadow," Amy said carefully.

"Rouge and I have been talking a lot but you haven't really gotten a word in edgewise right? Is there anything you'd like to talk about? It's been a while since we last--"

"Four years." He corrected.

"R-right...So, anything new?"

Shadow thought for a moment as he cut another piece of his cake. Four years is a long time to not have seen that faker. And although GUN kept him busy, the ultimate lifeform had not had a real challenge in a good long while.

"What's that blue hedgehog up to?" He said more to himself than to Amy.

The look on their faces made Shadow instantly regret asking.

"Awww," Rouge started, throwing an arm over her moody colleague's shoulder.

"You miss Big Blue, don't you? That's so sweet~"

"I don't--"

"Oh! Oh!" Amy clapped eagerly, her long hair quills bouncing in excitement.

"This is so perfect! Sonic misses you too Shadow. He's always asking if Rouge mentioned you during our talks." She giggled.

"Sonic always claims it's because he's 'so bored and wants a good race' but I know what he means."Rouge shook her head slowly, chuckling as she ate the rest of her cake.

"This is so cute, the boys miss knocking each other senseless."

Wait that was Shadow's piece, how did she--?

"Oh, I'm going over Sonic and Tails' place this weekend. You two should come!" Amy said a note of pleading in her voice. Rouge shrugged apologetically.

"I'd love to, but I have a mission starting tomorrow. I won't be back in time."

"Oh really?" Amy whined.

"That's a shame."

Shadow sighed, relieved. If Rouge had free time, she would have certainly dragged him along to meet everyone all over again, and the antihero wasn't sure if he could handle being around so many people at once.

"What about you, Shadow?" Amy piped up hopefully.

"Are you busy too?"

For a moment, Shadow was unsure of what to say. He glanced at Rouge, confused. She looked just as surprised as he did. The dark hedgehog had never been to social events without her before. Or rather, he had never been invited directly to one. Usually people were too afraid to ask him, or he was invited by proxy when Rouge had been asked to go places. Most people simply tolerated the fact that Rouge would, for whatever reason, bring Shadow along with her.

"You...want me to come?"

"Of course I do." Amy replied quickly.

"I want all of us to be together as often as we can. So can you make it?"

Before Shadow could even process the question Rouge answered for him."

Absolutely, hon. He's not busy that day at all."

"Wonderful! Oh this is so exciting!~" the pink hedgehog squealed.

"You don't even know which day it is, bat." Shadow growled under his breath, but the two women barely heard him, quickly moving on to another topic. He sighed, grateful that at least he could continue to brood in the corner in peace.

Amy actually invited him to come by himself, huh? And the Faker missed him?

Shadow would never admit it but it actually felt...kind of nice.

 

A Sonic boom echoed across the dimly lit landscape behind him. The ultimate lifeform chanced a glance backwards, spotting the signature blue blur zigzagging through the trees.

Shadow rolled his eyes. The Faker was catching up as quickly as ever.

Sonic had suggested they have their race through the backwoods instead of taking the quickest route through downtown. It seemed less efficient but Shadow humored the hero; he wanted the race to last as long as possible. Sonic may be fast, but Shadow had more endurance.

Said hedgehog was cackling like a mischievous child, suddenly veering in front of Shadow as he overtook the lead. The action caused Shadow to stagger in an attempt to avoid colliding with Sonic's spikes.

"Whoa, you gotta be careful Shads, wouldn't want you to trip and fall or anything!" Sonic teased, falling back a little to give Shadow a playful nudge in the ribs.

The darker hedgehog growled in reply but his heart wasn't really in it. He kind of enjoyed the teasing if he was being honest with himself.

It made it that much more satisfying when he beat the blue idiot.

As their destination came into view, Shadow put a burst of reserved chaos energy into his skates. Sonic had gotten too cocky and his choice to fall back a little gave Shadow the opportunity to steal the win.

Well, that was what the plan had been, anyway.

It turned out, trying to rocket past your rival at hyper speed while said rival still has his elbow in your side, actually hurt. It hurt a lot. It also can end up throwing him off balance and causing the two of you to accidentally collide into the hard ground.

If it had been anyone else in this situation they probably would not have survived the impact. Fortunately for the two hedgehogs, they laid in the carved, scorched path in the grass with only minor scrapes and cuts. Shadow shook his head slowly, the ringing in his ears making it hard for him to get his bearings.

"Ugh...what the hell...?" he mumbled shoving Sonic off of him. The hero chuckled lightly, rolling onto his side with a pained grunt.

"Wow Shads that was a dick move. I guess you couldn't handle losing that badly huh?"

"Ugh, it was an accident you idiot!" the ultimate life form hissed, kicking Sonic away.

"and if you had not been behaving like a child this wouldn't have happened and I would have beaten you, naturally."

Sonic stood up, offering his hand out to his rival.

"Sure, sure. Call it a tie for today?" He gestured behind him, with a sheepish grin.

"We both made it here at the same time after all."Shadow huffed at the gesture, but eventually took his hand.

"Fine. For now."

The two had arrived in a wooded area not far from the city. In the west, Sonic could make out the thin line of the ocean hundreds of yards away as the trees thinned out toward the shoreline. A pretty easy place to find from the beach if you know what to look for. Somehow that made him uncomfortable.

"Come on." Shadow urged walking further down the worn path. At the very end stood a delicate white gate covered in Ivy and small pink bundles of flowers. The gate door was ajar and swaying in the early autumn breeze as if tempting anyone passing through to come in.

"It should have a lock shouldn't it?" Sonic asked, as they came to a stop in front of the gate. Shadow shrugged.

"I don't think it would matter if it did. It's fairly small and weak; Seems to be more for show than for keeping people out."

"Right, right...Oh um..."

The hero quickly plucked a bundle of flowers from the gate. Shadow pinched the bridge of his nose in irritation.

"Really?"

Sonic shrugged, a lopsided grin making its way onto his face.

"She's not gonna mind. Plus its the thought that counts right?"

"I suppose. Speaking of thoughts, have you sorted out yours? What you're going to tell her?" the dark hedgehog asked eyeing him carefully.

"Don't worry man, I got this."

There were a lot more people than the hero anticipated. So many, he was having trouble pinpointing his friend.

"Chaos, where--"

"She's over there." Shadow replied tugging Sonic to the left. He stopped short, realizing Sonic wasn't moving with him.

"Can we do this tomorrow? She seems really...busy."

Shadow blinked at him, bewildered.

This guy was going to give him an ulcer at some point.

"I think maybe she has time for her favorite blue idiot. Plus, you and I both know if you don't tell her now you never will." He tightened his grip on Sonic's arm a fraction for reassurance.

"Come on."

Wordlessly Sonic followed, his confident expression withering with each step. Eventually Shadow stopped halfway, pushing Sonic in front of him.

"I'll stay here, Go on."

The blue hedgehog nodded, suddenly very aware of the fact he was wearing a sweaty, dirty, and badly torn suit he probably would not get his deposit back for. He shrugged the thought away. It wouldn't be the first time.

Sonic made his way over to her and crouched low, his feet sinking a bit into the freshly toiled earth. Looking around the landscape he was almost baffled at how easily he almost missed her. She was the only one here covered in dozens of rose bouquets, piled high on each side of her, and spilling over onto those next to her. Sonic guessed a majority of the roses were from grateful citizens.

He placed his pitiful bundle in the pile, and put a hand on the cool headstone. The hero felt drained, but finally being here gave him an odd sense of peace that he hadn't felt in days.

"Hey Ames," He said softly.

"Sorry I'm late."

Chapter Text

Shadow leaned against the craning willow tree, taking a moment to look around the location. The hills were neatly cut, and several smaller trees dotted the landscape. The white spindly gate they ran into at the entrance peeked through the foliage at the edges of the estate. Rich autumn colors from the trees gave the setting a warm feeling, and Shadow imagined that this would be a beautiful sight in the Springtime.

"It's perfect." the dark hedgehog whispered to himself.

His eyes wandered back to the blue hero crouched in front of his friend's gravestone. Sonic had not moved or spoken in several minutes, and Shadow was worried that he might be having a breakdown. He pushed himself off the tree and made his way down to them, prepared to take Sonic home. Maybe he wasn't ready after all.

"I know, I know, I should have came earlier with everyone else." Sonic pipped up suddenly. His tone was so natural and lively that at first, Shadow thought he was talking to him. He stopped a few feet behind the blue hedgehog waiting for him to finish.

"I really wanted to come but I couldn't. I didn't wanna see you like that, havin' that be my last memory of you. That's not how I know you." a small, nervous laugh escaped him.

"I wanted to tell you how I felt when we were alone. Not in front of all those people. Amy...I didn't feel the same way about you that you felt about me. I don't know why I didn't and I still have no idea." Sonic bowed his head and breathed out slowly, grimacing at his own words.

"Wow, that's a shitty thing to say and it sounded even shittier out loud..." he muttered to himself.

"But I came to tell you how I really feel. Not how I don't feel. You were...one of the best people I ever could have had come into my life, Ames. More than someone like me deserved, ya know? Ever since we were teens you looked out for me, you followed me from hell and back, and you were always there for all of us. You knew what to do and how to handle things that Tails, Knux and I were totally clueless about." another chuckle this time, a genuine smile on his face.

"I'm pretty sure Tails and I would have starved to death if you hadn't taught him how to cook. Ha, I remember you tried to teach me and we both got fed up with each other by the end of it..!"

the hero's smile faded suddenly, unsure of what to say next. He fiddled with the cuffs of the bedraggled suit.

"What I'm trying to say is...there will never be anyone in this world like you, Amy. You were strong, sweet, brave, and you never gave up on any of us no matter what. Even recently, you took time out of your own life to force Shads and I to get along. You helped us learn how to sit in the same room together without immediately jumping into a pissing contest."

"What? We never did that..." Shadow corrected.

"It's a figure of speech, grandpa." Sonic said loudly over his shoulder. He gestured behind him at toward the dark hedgehog.

"See what I mean? The dude is impossible." the hero shifted into a standing position, running a hand over the carved letters in the gravestone. Silent for a few more moments.

"But...you made the impossible possible for me, just like you always did. You deserved the world and more--" His voice cracked a bit, the facade becoming harder to keep up the longer he went on.

Shadow saw Sonic's shoulders tense, a loud sniffle cutting through the quiet evening air. He placed a hand on the blue hedgehog's back in support, rubbing in small circles to calm him down.

"Amy...I'm sorry that I wasn't 'in love' with you," He rasped softly. Green eyes glossed over and became wet, but bright with determination. He cleared his throat, his voice even and reassuring.

"but I hope you know, that in my heart, you were--you are loved. Always."

Sonic stepped back a bit, single tear finally making its way down his cheek. He sniffled, wiping his nose on the sleeves of the suit. Shadow grimaced but said nothing, instead looking toward the skyline. The sun's light was fading quicker than he realized, and the last thing Shadow wanted was to try and navigate through the forest in the dark this close to the ocean.

"I'm ready now, Shads." Sonic croaked after a while. The dark hedgehog nodded silently, putting an arm over his shoulder.

"We have to go. I'll be back soon, Amy." He said, his voice back to its usual confident tone. The hero lingered for a few heartbeats but managed to get his legs moving and made his way back to the gate.

Shadow stood over the grave a bit longer. It had just occured to him that he had not thought much about what he would say, or if he had any right to.The dark hedgehog closed his eyes briefly. He was not like Sonic; Shadow had only really been close to Amy for a short time, and was not exactly a man of many words. However, he was always honest when nothing else came to mind.

"I will take care of him."

Satisfied with his promise, Shadow gave a brisk nod and followed Sonic's lead.

the two rivals headed on silently down the path, leaving their cherished friend behind as the last bit of sunlight faded into the dark.

 

"I realized...I never asked how."

"How what?"

"How she died."

Shadow put down his mug and exhaled slowly, glancing out the foggy window. He decided to treat Sonic to something to eat and the two of them agreed on a late night diner at the edge of town. It was hot, grimy, and always smelled like grease, but they served pretty good chili dogs. That was all Sonic cared about. The ultimate life form had not anticipated Sonic to be a stress eater, but he was on his ninth chili dog and the blue hero did not seem like he was on the verge of stopping. He had not spoken a word since they left the cemetery, so Shadow decided he would indulge him for the time being. Money was no object, after all.

"I thought you didn't want to know." He replied, eyes still on the fuzzy city lights through the glass.

"That was before," Sonic pushed his plate to the side and crossed his arms.

"Now I have to know. And I know you'll be straight with me about it."

"Very well," Shadow said, glancing in the hero's direction. He took a long sip from his mug of coffee; Shadow was thinking of how to explain it in a way Sonic would understand.

"Rouge told me she had a brain aneurysm," the dark hedgehog started.

Sonic furrowed his brow in confusion but nodded for him to continue.

"It's when someone has a weak blood vessel in the brain. It balloons, and eventually it ruptures. It's a serious condition, but it doesn't have any symptoms until it actually happens."

"I don't understand," Sonic replied, a hint of frustration in his voice.

"What happened to her to cause something like that...?"

"There could be a million different reasons of how and why it happened. Or there could be none. It's such a rare event, and there is no direct cause for it, only events that can increase the risk. She could have developed the condition recently or have had it all her life. Nobody knows."

Shadow tore his gaze away from the window to give the hero his full attention, realizing midway that being aloof while relaying this information was not exactly a sympathetic gesture.

Sonic did not seem to notice. He rested his chin in one hand the other balled into a tight fist. His knee was bouncing anxiously against Shadows, gaze focused on the table deep in thought.

"Hedgehog, I already know what you're thinking. There's nothing you could have done." Shadow stated firmly. His green eyes shot up to glare into Shadow's red, but the ultimate lifeform didn't look away.

"Beating yourself up over it won't do any good, you can't save every--"

"I don't wanna hear that. Not from you." Sonic said curtly.

"I always find a way. If I had known, I--"

"You what?"

"I...!" Sonic's glare faltered, narrowing his eyes at his rival. He laid his head on the table, staring out the window in frustration.

"There's no use on getting worked up over what has already happened and what we cannot change." Shadow replied.

"The best thing you can do right now is be strong for those that need you."

The blue hero closed his eyes, trying to ignore the crawling anxiety in his belly. He knew what Shadow said was right, but the guilt he felt was eating away at him.

"You should get home and rest," Shadow sighed. "The fox has not seen you all day. He's probably worried." He slid out of the diner booth and pulled out his wallet. Sonic got up as well, piling his trash onto the empty plate.

"Right, I shouldn't have stayed out so late..."

"You needed time. If anyone understands that, its your brother." Shadow left a few bills on the table and headed out the door. Sonic quicky dug into his pockets to leave a few more for a tip and followed after him.

It was raining, and the cool air hit them harshly as they stepped outside the diner doors. Shadow seemed unaffected but Sonic shivered;On a cold day like this, getting home quickly was the best idea. Shadow turned away to leave but Sonic reached out, placing a hand on his shoulder. He searched the dark hedgehog's face, concerned.

"Are you okay, Shads?"

Shadow grunted, puzzled.

"Of course I am."

"Oh...right. Sorry." Sonic muttered. Green eyes veered to the side awkwardly.

"I guess, with Amy, you didn't really..."

"That is not what I meant." Shadow rested his hand on Sonic's, still on his shoulder.

"She and I may not have been as close as you two were...but I cared for her. I am just...more familiar with loss than most I suppose. However, you don't need to concern yourself with it. I am alright." Gently he lowered Sonic's hand. Shadow's gaze softened as he tightened his grip on it thoughtfully.

"Though...I must admit you are the first to ask how I am."

A reassuring smile made its way onto Sonic's face as he pulled Shadow in for a hug. If he was being honest with himself, Shadow was so stoic and self-assured Sonic had not thought to ask how his rival felt until now. The blue hedgehog felt a little guilty about it, especially after that reaction. He knew Shadow wasn't a hugger but he would just have to suffer for today.

"Don't hold out on me, okay? If you ever need to talk, or if you want to hang, just come find me. We can sense each other's chaos energies so there's no need to call ahead. Amy isn't here to force us together anymore so...we gotta do it ourselves, yeah?"

His whole body stiffened at the sudden contact, but gradually Shadow returned the hug.

"Yes, of course."

"Good. See ya later, nerd."

Sonic let him go, giving the ultimate life form his classic hero grin before the hedgehog sprinted away, a blue flash and sprays of water trailing behind him.

Shadow watched him go. As much as he hated to admit it, he was worried about him; Sonic was a Hero.

Though Eggman was no longer an issue, there were other dangers in this world that the blue hedgehog still had to tend to now and again. He would only be allowed so much time to get through Amy's passing.

And how would he feel if he eventually figured out why it might have happened...?

Pushing the thought out of his mind Shadow skated away, disappearing without a sound into the cold, stormy night.

Chapter Text

Tails was tired. So Tired.

The young fox had attended the funeral earlier in the day, and had said his goodbyes, but still could not shake his anxiety and restlessness. There was never a right time to lose a friend, but Tails just felt like Amy left his life much too soon.

The world felt even stranger to him after he came home. Nothing had changed per sey; the furniture was still worn and torn, Sonic's comic books were strewn throughout the living room as usual, half-finished gadgets and empty chip bags were still exactly where they've always been. Though everything felt slower and colder, as if he merely was having a bad dream. He wished Sonic was here with him, but the fox knew his older brother needed time to himself and probably wouldn't be back till late.

He sat heavily on the tattered couch in the living room, combing a hand through his bangs in frustration. The moment he relaxed, he knew couldn't hold it in any longer. A harsh sob wracked his body, tears flowing soon after. The fox kit was shaking uncontrollably and curled up on the couch. He wrapped his namesakes protectively around his body, crying hard into the couch pillows. All he could think about was Amy, how people asked him over and over again what happened, and how each time their pitying expressions tore a new gash in his heart. Exhausted, the fox kit eventually cried himself to sleep.

It was late when he awoke again, the dull throb of a headache eventually waking him up. It was so distracting, Tails barely noticed the gnawing feeling in his stomach as he got up from the couch. He hadn't had much of an appetite all day, so he figured he should eat sometime before he went to his workshop and to bed. It was probably the cause of the headache too. Slowly he pushed himself up to go make something to eat.

The kitchen, unlike the living room, was thankfully tidy when he came in. It was one of the few rooms in the house the two brothers both agreed they sort of had to keep clean. Tails didn't feel like cooking or making a mess, so he tossed one of Sonic's many frozen burritos into the microwave. Leaning against the marble counter the yellow fox sighed, trying to collect his thoughts. Out of the corner of his eye he spotted a lime green laptop sitting open on the dinning table.

Sonic always watched videos during breakfast so his laptop frequently was left behind in the kitchen, the hero leaving for a morning run as soon as he finished eating. Tails was wondering had Sonic been watching anything today; he couldn't imagine that he would. Out of curiosity, he tapped a key to wake the laptop from sleep mode. Instead of videos, the laptop was left on a Messenger chatroom with Ms. Vanilla; the last post about directions to the church where the funeral was being held.

Tails was surprised Sonic used social media in general, but as he poked around he noticed that his account was pretty sparse, aside from video saves from his favorite streaming sites and brief chats with Knuckles about sparring. It's about as much as he expected from his brother, who barely remembered to even carry a cellphone much less spend ample time on social media.

He noticed that Shadow also had sent him messages. Though the fox did not entirely understand his brother's relationship with the dark hedgehog, he was unaware the two rivals bothered to share social media accounts. He clicked on the conversation, immediately assaulted with walls of text from both Shadow and his brother.

It was then that the young fox became hesitant. Sonic and Shadow were a lot closer than they use to be, this he knew, but they weren't known to talk nearly this much in person. He knew that snooping on his brother's laptop was wrong, but another part of Tails was curious as to what these two actually talked about.

Unfortunately, curiosity outweighed the guilt.

glancing over the text Tails saw the two actually shared surprisingly deep conversations about life, people, and some of the adventures they had in the past. However the majority of the messages consisted of either late night race plans, or Sonic taking pictures of places and Shadow giving a 'Like' in reply. Though one particular string of messages made Tails stop scrolling immediately.

Shads hav U ever kissd any1

Shadow: Its 4am.

I kno but hav U

Shadow: Why.

Jus answr me

Shadow: No

Wat??? Do U WANT 2 kiss som1 somday???

Shadow: Perhaps one day. Go to bed.

But do I get a goodnite kiss tho is the question

Shadow: Hah. Go to bed Faker.

It was...a confusing exchange to say the least. The idea of his brother sending cheeky messages to the ultimate life form was not out of the ordinary, but Shadow being so reciprocative to them was something new. Enough for Tails to decide that he was not well equipped to dissect this conversation, nor in the right state of mind to. He clicked away from it, and busied himself with looking at a few other friends on Sonic's list. It was pretty small, and only consisted of people he did not see often like Rouge, Shadow and Cream.

Even Cream had a page? Geez, he really needed to get back into social media.

Tails clicked on the rabbit girl's profile and scrolled through idly, hearing the microwave beep a moment later.The fox was about to get his food until he saw a video in Cream's feed of Amy sitting at a pink desk.

His chest ached all over again just seeing her face. Quickly he took his food from the microwave and clicked the video, an odd sense of calm washing over him hearing her voice through the laptop.

'Hello guys! Welcome to another video of 'Rose Drops of Wisdom: Tarot, Advice, and Fortune!' I'm Amy Rose, of course, you all know me. Sonic The Hedgehog's number one best friend and snappiest fashionista!'

Tails chuckled lightly to himself, settling in with his food.

'Anyway, last time we left off, I told you all about my super amazing trip planned for my two amazing guy friends. Now I won't say names but one is blue and a hero and the other is dark and scary. and they're both hedgehogs. But one of them is definitely not Sonic.'

She paused a moment, looking ready to burst.

'Okay it's Sonic! Also Shadow. Ahem, now, I've carefully crafted a trip for the three of us to go on. It's full of things that Shadow and Sonic both like, and will enjoy together. I won't tell any of you what is going to happen or why yet, but a lot of you sent in guesses and most of you already know where I'm going with this idea.'

The pink hedgehog disappears for a moment off screen but returns with a big pink notebook.

'This is the big plan all laid out for them! All my genius planning in one big book. Once the trip starts I'll post pictures of all the places we go and give you guys updates on how each destination went. Oh this is so exciting!'

Amy flips her long quills out of her face, looking past the computer screen. Her mouth hangs open for a few seconds then closes; she seems unsure of what to say and how to say it. Delicately she presses her hands together and gives a tentative smile, a familiar expression so full of affection and gratitude its almost too much for Tails to bear.

'First off, I wanna thank everyone who's subscribed to me, and supported my blog all this time. Being a hero is actually kind of lonely, especially when there's not a lot to do anymore, and you realize how so many people love you and know your face, but you've never spoken to any of them. I don't know how Sonic does it...but he's never been the overly close type I guess.'

She adjusts her chair and scoots closer to the screen.

'Answering questions, and giving daily readings for viewers has actually helped me as much as it's helped you all. Not only has it given me a chance to meet a few of you and talk personally, it also has helped me reflect on my life as a person and how I can improve my own life, and the lives of my friends.

This trip is more than a show of my skills as an advisor. It's a personal milestone I want to get across so badly, and I would give the world for it to happen for my two favorite hedgehogs.'

Amy then hugs the notebook close to her chest and nods to herself, seemingly satisfied.

'That's all I wanted to say. I won't be answering questions or posting a video next week because I'll be getting my plans in order. Originally, I was going to let them do this on their own but Sonic is forgetful and Shadow has a 'thing' about people taking pictures of him. So I'm coming along to make sure everything gets documented whether they want me to or not.

Two weeks from today, the trip starts! I don't know how long it will take, especially with myself having to tag along, but I will give you guys the conclusion once we're done. Those of you who still don't get it yet, you will. I promise. Amy Rose signing off, love you guys!'

Tails paused the video, the warm fuzzy feeling fading as he realized something important.

This video was from two weeks ago. It had been a week since she passed. Amy never got to see whatever this plan was come to fruition.

"She was so happy..." the fox kit trailed off.

The pink hedgehog had spent time and energy planning something spectacular for her dearest friends. As he scrolled through the thousands of comments he saw nothing but anticipation and support for Amy and her ambitious adventure.

An adventure they would never get to see.

An adventure Sonic and Shadow would never experience. All of the pink hedgehog's hopes and plans vanishing in the blink of an eye.

Wait...

Tails rewinded the video and paused, Amy holding a large notebook to her chest. Upon closer inspection, the notebook was a light pastel pink, rain clouds designed on the front and two teddy bears sharing an umbrella. She claimed the entire trip was planned out in it; enough for Sonic and Shadow to navigate by themselves if she let them.

"If I can find that notebook..." The young fox mumbled to himself. He was aware Amy stayed with Ms. Vanilla and Cream, and assumed that was where she did her videos from. Tomorrow he would have to ask Cream about the notebook and if it was still there. He hated to disturb her and her mother so soon after loosing Amy, but this was important.

The soft click of a screen door broke Tails out of his thoughts. He leaned out of the kitchen entrance to see Sonic trudging up the stairs in the dim light of the living room. The kit assumed Sonic thought he was asleep, given the fact the lights in the rest of the house and the workshop were off. He clicked off the video and closed the laptop, following after Sonic. Tails had not seen him since early this morning and wanted to check if his older brother was okay.

 

Sonic's room was junky as usual. Deep blue walls plastered with race cars and video games, comics stacked in the corners, and a pile of laundry near the closet. Though the severely damaged suit on the computer desk was new.

"...Hey little buddy, how ya feelin'?" Sonic asked softly. He was sitting on the edge the bed, white gloves and socks tossed haphazardly on the growing laundry pile in the corner.

Tails shrugged.

"Like crap. I've felt better."

"Me too, if I'm being honest. Though, I went to see Amy today, and said what I needed to say. It's weird but even though she's gone, going made me feel better, you know?"

The young fox nodded, thinking of how beautiful the burial site was and the endless shower of roses on her headstone. It was reassuring to know she was so loved.

"Yeah I know exactly what you mean."

Sonic stretched a little, and tiredly crawled under the red sheets.

"Well, we better get some sleep, we had a rough day." He brought the blanket up to his chin and stared at Tails intently, as if he had something to ask him.

"What?"

"You're not getting in?"

Tails' namesakes swished irritably behind him. He hated having this conversation about how much he'd grown up; they've had it too many times already and he was burnt out on the topic altogether. But the fox knew his brother still saw him as a child deep down.

"I'm 16 Sonic. I'm not a kid anymore; you don't have to do that everytime something bad happens. I can sleep soundly by myself."

The blue hero smiled weakly at his little brother. He rolled over defeated, facing the ceiling.

"I know you can." was all he said.

The fox kit stared at Sonic, a little surprised the hero didn't say anything more, or try to fight him on it. It dawned on him that he wasn't asking simply for Tails' benefit.

Wordlessly he got in next to the blue hedgehog, pulling the blanket up to his nose as he lied on his back. Suddenly Tails felt a lot more secure than he did when he came home; perhaps he still needed his big brother after all.They both needed each other especially for times like this. Sonic reached over him and turned off the light.

"Are we gonna be okay?" Tails whispered.

"Of course we will, lil' bro," Sonic replied instantly. "We're 'Team Sonic' remember? We can get through anything if we stick together, and I ain't goin' nowhere anytime soon. I'll always be by your side." his voice lowered and Tails could detect a hint of desperation.

"I promise you that."

It was silent for a few minutes, both of them grateful for the darkness. Neither daring to speak, afraid they'd end up crying in front of the other.

Briefly, Tails wondered if he should mention what he discovered in Amy's blog video. Immediately he decided against it; the fox didn't want to get his brother's hopes up before he even knew if the notebook was still around. Tomorrow he would find out for sure. He would make this happen no matter what it took.

"Goodnight Sonic." He said at last.

"Night Tails."

Chapter Text

"What's wrong, Miss Amy?"

The pink hedgehog gazed thoughtfully at her friend, hesitant on what to say. The gravity of the situation hit her like a truck; she had been in the same position herself when she was her age.

The whirlwind of feelings that came from the experience were unlike anything she ever felt before; enticing, exciting. It felt like nothing else in the world mattered, and at that age it was so easy to truly believe that nothing else did. To throw everything you had, and everything you knew into chasing that euphoric feeling and never letting go. But Amy knew how crushing it could be if those efforts were not rewarded. To realize the world was an unpredictable place and that no matter what you did, you could not change anything if someone's destiny did not line up with your own.

There was a strong protective feeling nagging at the young woman's heart. The girl was dear to her, and she felt a sense of duty to be supportive and encouraging in this situation. Something pushed her to say she should follow her heart and that eventually the universe would reward her with everything she ever dreamed of. To let her ride out the experience and stay blissfully ignorant a little longer while she could.

But as she looked into those soft, expectant brown eyes, Amy knew she couldn't do that.

Amy cast one last hopeful glance at the Tarot spread before her on the bed. No matter how many times she reshuffled and spread the cards, they all vaguely pointed to the same answer. Even consulting her guide book twice did not help; she read them correctly and put them in the right positions each time. Briefly she cursed herself for not knowing more multi-card spreads for this kind of situation. Amy sighed, brushing long pink quills over her shoulder in frustration. It was no use; she just had to explain what she was given and fill in the blanks with some advice of her own.

"Cream...I don't know..."

"What do you mean?" The young rabbit asked softly. She eyed the spread with a wary expression, wondering what Amy was seeing-or wasn't seeing-that she herself could not. Fawn arms wrapped anxiously around the sleeping chao in her lap, afraid of the terrible fortune the cards predicted for her.

"Does he not like me?"

"It's not that," Amy replied quickly.

"its just-Okay. So Basically, it says that you feel strongly and passionately about this person. He is ignorant about matters of the heart and love and that's where you would come in if you two got together. It also says that you two will spend the rest of your lives side by side and you will be happy. But then it says that you won't get what you truly want. Which is confusing if you two will always be together." Teal eyes focused on the rabbit girl intensely.

"What is it that you want?"

Cream shifted on the pink sheeted bed, setting her sleeping little friend to the side. For a moment, the young girl seemed as if she was hesitant to answer but her tone was confident and sure.

"I want to marry him."

"Hmm...I see. That's what is confusing to me. You two stay close, which I would assume is marriage...but if you don't get what you truly want..." She tapped her fingers on the deck, her pink brow narrowed in frustration at her cards.

"Does it say he will meet someone else?"

Amy shrugged; unsure.

"It doesn't say anything like that, but I can't rule it out either. Though if competition was a problem I would think it would be alluded to." She grimaced at the thought of someone else finding their way into his heart. However...

"If im being honest, I don't see the guy finding anyone else who likes him like you do. I don't see him getting married either...and neither do the cards, apparently. I'm really sorry, Cream."

To her surprise, the young girl suddenly smiled, completely unfazed by what Amy had told her. She had expected tears, or at the least some disappointment in knowing her future efforts would not be rewarded. If anything Cream seemed more lively and enthusiastic than before, her bright brown eyes lighting up in excitement.

"Don't be sorry, miss Amy!" she said quickly.

"It's okay if we don't get married. Plus it says we stay together forever right? That sounds amazing!"

The pink hedgehog shook her head; Cream was not understanding the point she was trying to make. As much as she hated to tell her this, she did not want Cream to fall victim to the same feelings she did back then.

"Cream I just--I don't...I don't want you to be disappointed when things don't go the way you hoped they would. Especially when you've thrown your entire being into making it work. I know how it feels."

The rabbit girl nodded, her kind eyes full of sympathy.

"I understand, miss Amy. But I won't give up on it either way...besides you and Mr. Sonic didn't turn out how you wanted but you are a lot happier than you use to be, right?"

Amy opened her mouth to reply, suddenly closing it when she realized that she did not have an immediate answer.

She and Sonic...actually were better now than they had been they entire time they've known each other. Amy's overzealous infatuation with the hero gradually faded as she hit her mid teen years. Eventually the pink hedgehog began to see Sonic for who he really was, and get to know the person underneath that trademark heroic smile.

As she became less aggressive Sonic began to spend more time with her willingly, asking for her advice and even sharing precious secrets that he would never tell anyone else. He felt comfortable with her, and after seeing how he truly was, she no longer was infatuated with the blue hedgehog.

She was in love with him.

By then Sonic was aware of how hard she had fallen for him, Amy was sure. His body language, his nervous behavior, the way he averted his eyes as much as possible.The tension always set her nerves on fire in the least romantic way possible. Everytime they were alone it was awkward, and everytime green eyes met teal, it was always the same reaction.

That sickening, sympathetic smile that said nothing more than 'I'm sorry'.

Nowadays, Amy no longer felt that burning desire for the blue hedgehog. She still had love for Sonic, but no longer did she desire to be with him in the way she use to. The passionate fire of teenaged love burned bright and fizzled out just as quickly as it started. Ironically, this allowed the two of them to spend time together comfortably once more, and she was genuinely satisfied. His friendship ended up being more valuable to her than she ever thought it could be. So when an unexpected turn of events brought a new person into all their lives, Amy finally understood where Sonic's destiny was truly leading him.

And the pink hedgehog knew that before she was going to find her own destiny, she needed to allow her heroic friend find his.

"Miss Amy?" Cream pipped up, realizing Amy still had not answered her.

"Cream I...I suppose you're right. Sonic and I are at a good place right now as friends. We love each other, but we aren't in love with each other...do you know what I mean? Not everyone can be friends with someone they have had strong feelings for, especially after they are known. What if that happens with you? Are you really okay with your future being so uncertain?"

"The most important thing is to be with people you love, isn't it? Knowing that Tails and I will always be in each other's lives regardless of how it happens, is all I need to know."

Amy blinked, taken aback. Her mind raced trying to find a something to say, some advice to give. The young woman's thoughts stopped altogether as the realization hit her.

Before she knew it, Cream had grown up to be someone truly amazing.

She knew that Amy was trying to protect her feelings, and keep her from experiencing heartbreak...but the young rabbit was ready for anything life threw at her and she would never give up on what she wanted. The uncertainties of life did not scare Cream, as long as she knew that she gave it her all.

The pink hedgehog felt an edge of guilt for trying to quell the passion in her, and using her own experiences to discourage Cream altogether. Did she honestly forget about the brave, spirited person back then that made her who she was today? The heroic girl who stood by Sonic's side not just for herself, but for the world?

Amy shook her head vehemently, an exasperated chuckle escaping her lips.

"You're doing exactly what I would have done, if someone told me the same thing. The only difference is you're a lot smarter and stronger than I was. I'm sorry."

"Sorry? For what?"

She slipped off of the bed, turning to pull Cream in for a loving hug. No matter what the cards ended up saying, Amy knew in her heart that her little friend would never truly fail no matter what the future had in store for her.

"Nothing, its nothing. Just know I believe in you. Don't ever give up on your dreams, okay?"

 

She held on to those words anytime she felt like the world was against her. Amy believed Cream could do anything she set her mind to, and that alone helped the young rabbit through even the hardest of times in her life.

Though now as she sat in the kitchen by herself with a pitiful plate of burnt eggs, Cream wasn't so sure if this was an obstacle she could overcome without her.

Her mother Ms. Vanilla had been beside herself since loosing Amy. She had said many times that the pink hedgehog was like a second child to her, but loosing her cut deeper than she ever could have imagined. Even Cream and Cheese could tell just waking up in the morning was difficult for her, so they decided to make sure she got as much time to rest as she needed.

"I'm so sorry, Sweetheart," The woman said, stroking her daughter's delicate ears lovingly. Tired brown eyes unable to meet Cream's concerned face out of guilt.

"Don't be sorry; Cheese and I have everything we need. Plus you already asked Miss Rouge to come over and help and make sure we're fine." She gently pushed her mother back down onto the bed, pulling the floral quilted sheets up again. The small girl put her hands on her hips, giving her mother a stern glare.

"Now don't get up unless you feel better. Cheese will let me know if you get up too."

Cream tucked Vanilla in for good measure, her expression softening into a loving grin. "You just rest. You always take care of me, Momma. Now let me take care of you. Okay?"

Vanilla nodded, giving tentative smile as she closed her eyes.

"Of course, dear. I'll do as you say."

Cream was happy that her mother eventually listened to her and stayed in bed. Vanilla did get up a few times to check on her, but ultimately Cheese shooed her back into her room. The young girl knew that her mother was worried about how she was doing since Amy's passing, but Cream was determined not to make her mother fret over her. She was 14 now; when Amy was about her age she fought aliens, monsters, and had to save the world with Mr.Sonic tons of times. Many people died, and there were always a few they couldn't save. If Amy could do all of that and still keep herself grounded, Cream could handle this, she was sure.

Though now that she was alone for a moment, she suddenly felt all of her strength draining. But the rabbit refused to cry this time; she had cried her eyes out so much lately she refused to do it again. Amy was always strong for those that needed her, and now it was her turn to do the same. Cream pushed her burnt breakfast to the side and pulled out a deck of Tarot cards from her dress pocket. Briefly, she ran her thumb over the delicate curving patterns on the backs of the cards. Amy had gifted Cream one of her most precious Tarot decks on her birthday, and told her to consult them anytime she was feeling unsure or worried about the future.

"It's not exactly magic, but it's something to point you in the right direction when you're lost."

The young rabbit shuffled the cards and placed the deck neatly on the table, concentrating and calming herself as Amy had taught her to do many times before. She focused on her question, wanting desperately to find an answer.

'What can I do to get through losing Miss Amy?'

She opened her eyes and delicately picked a card.

The image on the card was upright, and depicted a nude woman bearing water jugs pouring each of them downward. She knelt in front of a pool of water in a grassy meadow. Above her, a large gleam of light shone brightly, surrounded by smaller ones on each side.

"The Star...?" Cream said softly. She took a moment to think, wracking her brain for the meaning; she was sure the guide book she owned had told her at some point. Though In the back of her mind she instantly recalled Amy's explanation during one of her readings.

"The Star! This is a good sign. It represents hope, blessings, and an optimistic future. It means that something good may be happening today, and the actions you take in this direction will give you inner peace."

"Hello, Dear." A soothing voice startled Cream out of her thoughts. She looked up from the kitchen table to see Rouge standing in the doorway, worry creasing her brow as she stared down at the young girl. Cheese was perched comfortably on her shoulder.

"I didn't mean to startle you, sorry about that. I had knocked a few times and nobody answered so Cheese ended up opening the door for us."

The little chao fluttered onto the kitchen table pulling anxiously at Cream's hand, pointing im the direction of the stairs.

"Chao! Chao!"

"Oh, what is it Cheese?" The young rabbit's ears perked up slightly at Rouge's comment.

"You said 'us?' "

"Oh right, yes," Rouge nodded quickly. She gestured behind her toward the staircase in the living room.

"Tails asked could he ride with me over here. He went to say hello to Ms. Vanilla and see how she was doing. Though he said he came to see you too." The bat flashed Cream a knowing smile, sauntering her way into the kitchen. She took her time casually going into the refrigerator as she continued.

"He even offered to help me cook breakfast and stay to eat with us. He seemed very interested in talking with you. I suppose even clueless boys can be knights in shining armor when they have to be, you know?"

Brown eyes widened suddenly at the news. Tails really came over to see how she was doing? The idea was both exciting and conflicting. She was happy that Tails thought about how she was doing specifically, when they all were grieving for Amy. However, Cream also felt a small bit of guilt at thinking of Tails in that way during such a sad time. He had came to check on her after loosing someone important in her life; it was hardly the time to think about romance.

However...

The young rabbit glanced back at the Star card in her hand. She bit her lip uncertain, yet she couldn't ignore the painful irony of Miss Rouge and Tails showing up right now.

Maybe this is exactly what the cards were telling her about?

"Hey."

Tails leaned in the kitchen doorway, wearing a lopsided smile. Right away she noticed something about his demeanor was off. He seemed unsure of how to approach her, sky blue eyes avoiding her gaze anxiously. The fox was wearing a navy varsity jacket a few sizes too big for him; he always seemed to borrow Sonic's jackets on cold gloomy days.

"H-hi, Tails." Cream replied softly. She placed the Star card on top of her Tarot deck, and patted the open chair beside her.

"You can come sit here if you want."

"Thanks," Tails nodded, pulling out the chair beside Cream and making himself comfortable. He folded his hands neatly on the table, leg bouncing anxiously as he spoke.

"Hey, can I ask you something?"

Rouge shut the fridge door and returned to the kitchen table with a tray of food for the two of them. She set it down quickly seeming as if she wanted to give the two teens as much space as possible.

"Two glasses of orange juice and some chopped fruit with yogurt; it's a quick and easy breakfast. I can show you how to make it later if you'd like, dear. Anyway, I'll get started on cleaning a little upstairs just call me if you need me."

Before Cream could reply the white bat flew out the kitchen doorway, a sly chuckle leaving her lips as she went.

Tails glanced at the door, his brows furrowed in confusion at the sound. He opened his mouth to ask what Rouge was up to but shrugged and reached for a piece of fruit instead.

Cream hadn't realized she was holding her breath until he spoke again. He seemed a little more relaxed now that the woman had left them alone. She on the other hand, could not have been more anxious.

"How have you been?"

"I'm doing better. Especially with Miss Rouge's help."

Tails nodded absently, glancing upwards at the roof with a worried expression on his face.

"Ms Vanilla seems a little different. I could tell she was trying to be warm and inviting as usual but she looked so tired..."

"Yeah," The girl replied breathlessly. She fidgeted with her fingers under the table looking out the window.

"I have to be strong for her until she can do it on her own. This has been so hard for her too. I just want her to smile again."

"Yeah but...what about you?"

Something about his tone pulled Cream's gaze away from the window. She froze.

Tails was a lot closer to her than he was a minute ago.

Suddenly the room seemed too small, her heart was beating faster, a hot creeping feeling running quickly up her spine. The temperature of the room seemed to increase in mere seconds. How did she miss that? Was he getting closer the whole time? had she missed it?

Hesitantly, Tails reached out and put a hand on hers in her lap. His gaze was tired and unsure, yet full of sympathy; he was trying his best to comfort her. Cream tried to stay calm and answer him, but her mouth seemed to dry up and her mind went blank. Her flight or fight response was kicking in, caught between acknowledging how much she appreciated his gesture and flipping out at the contact.

"You don't have to do everything on your own you know? We're all in this together. And I know that there aren't a lot of people our age so...you can always talk to me."

"Thank you, Tails..." Cream managed, shakily. She pulled her hand away, unable to handle the intimate contact any longer.

"I'm sorry, I just..."

Tails shook his head, putting both hands above the table again. "No, it's okay! I shouldn't have just...reached out without asking if it was okay. You just seemed so sad...and I wanted to hold your hand but doing it under the table seems-- I mean That's where your hands were but I didn't--uh--"

"Y-you said you wanted to ask me something?" The young rabbit asked, her voice higher and more urgent than usual.

Tails nodded quickly, fumbling in his pocket for his phone.

"Oh right! Right! Yes um...I-I uh...I know this is a really odd question but, I want to know..." He swiped the screen a few times, turning his phone around to show her a photo. It was a screenshot of Amy during the blog video.

"Have you seen this notebook anywhere in Amy's room?"

Cream narrowed her eyes thoughtfully at the image. She had definitely seen the notebook and she knew where it was, but she was unsure why the young fox was so interested in it. As far as she knew, It was simply one of Amy's old journals. What could be so significant about it?

"I have, but...why?"

"It's really important I...here, I'll show you."

 

Tails paused the video on his phone once the subscribers list started to roll by at the end. He and Cream had watched the video twice, listening carefully to everything Amy had said. Tails realized he had no idea what the plans were for the trip and he didn't really know what this 'conclusion' everyone was excited about was supposed to consist of. But he knew they had to do it for Amy regardless. Maybe Cream had an idea of where this was heading.

"So, Cream you see, this is--" Tails clamped his mouth shut as soon as his eyes met hers. Brown irises watery and overflowing, her snow white muzzle flushed with pink and tears streaming down her delicate features. She seemed to be holding back a sob, sniffling and shaking with a hand held up to her mouth.

Cheese leaned against her shoulder petting the young girl supportively, but she was having trouble holding back.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make you cry...!" Tails started, putting a hand on Cream's shoulder. He pulled up the sleeves of his jacket into his hand and wiped her eyes gently. Her cheeks were even more flushed at the contact, but eventually she managed to calm down.

"...I-its okay..." She said through another sniffle.

"I just...I miss her so much, Tails. Every time I think I'm okay, I end up crying all over again. I'm weaker than I though I was but I'm trying--"

"Cream, you're not weak. I cried too. We all did. I know Sonic sure did; its why he didn't show up to the funeral I bet. Being strong doesn't mean holding back tears It means keeping your head up in spite of them." The fox reached out to wipe another tear from her blushing face.

"You're trying to be there for your mom even though you feel this way. That's pretty strong, you know?"

"Yeah...I suppose you're right. A-and you're right about the notebook too its super important. Doing this for Mr. Sonic and Shadow is something important to Miss Amy." Cream smacked her cheeks lightly trying to calm herself down. Amy needed her right now. She took a deep breath and looked at Tails, her eyes still red and watery but more confident than before.

"I want to do whatever I can to make her last wish come true. She always was there for me. I wanna be there for her when she can't do it herself. If this is what she wants, we have to do it! For all three of them."

The young fox nodded eagerly, a determined smile on his face.

"Exactly how I feel too! O-oh, do you know where the notebook is?"

"It's in my room upstairs on my bookshelf," Cream replied, pushing in her chair.

"Our rooms had a door between them, but the bookshelf was in my room. Miss Amy said she put it there so she wouldn't lose track of it like all her other notebooks."

"That's great, Let's go get it then!" Tails hopped up quickly, veering toward the kitchen entrance.

"Um...Tails?" Cream said softly. Her delicate fingers gripped the cuff of the varsity jacket to get his attention. Tails stopped immediately, a hint of impatience in his voice.

"Yeah? What's wrong?"

"Nothing, I just wanted to say thank you for coming to see how I was doing. I'm glad that I can come to you about things anytime I need to. I-If that's okay with you I mean."

A light dust of pink appeared gradually on the fox kit's muzzle. He smiled through it, something about her words lighting a fire under him and spurring Tails on even more than before.

"Of course you can, Cream. Always."

Chapter Text

Black ears flattened defensively as another shudder traveled through Shadow's body. He could sense him nearby and all it did was put the anti hero's nerves on edge. Pulling up the collar of his pea coat, he maneuvered through the crowd of people on the sidewalk heading toward a dark alley. It took everything the ultimate life form had not to simply dash in between the agonizingly slow citizens in Station Square; if he used even a fraction of his super speed Shadow knew he would be caught in an instant. Calm and casual was the easiest way to avoid this confrontation.

Well that's what he thought, until a familiar blue form sat waiting in the alley ahead of him.

"Hi, Shads." Sonic said dryly.

The dark hedgehog inwardly cursed himself for not running when he should have. Despite that same urge pulling at him to run again there was no escaping Sonic now that he had spotted him, so Shadow decided to stay put.

"Sonic." he spat.

"What's up with you, man?" The hero asked calmly, shoving gloved hands into the pockets of his pink varsity jacket. Green eyes narrowed at their rival accusingly, Sonic taking a few paces toward Shadow before stopping right in front of him. He could tell right away the blue hedgehog's body was tensed up despite his casual stance; he was prepared just in case his rival decided to run away again.

"Why the heck are you avoiding me? I've been trying to contact you for three days, dude."

"I don't know."

"Y-you don't know???" Sonic said in disbelief, his voice seeming louder than normal in the closed alley space. Shadow's ears pinned back at the sound, but his blank expression stayed firm.

This.

This is what he wanted to avoid the whole time. Sonic probably would have caught up to him eventually if he decided to leave now, but at least it would buy some time to think.

"What do you mean you don't know?...You know exactly why, Shads don't bullshit me on this." the blue hedgehog took a step back, turning away from him to stare at the brick walls of the alley. He shook his head slowly, a mirthless chuckle escaping his lips.

"You were trying to distance yourself from me so you wouldn't get hurt again, right? Even after you told me we would stick together."

Shadow winced; he hit the nail on the head.

The faker didn't need to know that, though.

"I said, I don't know. As in, I don't know what you're talking about. I'm GUN's top agent Faker, I will always be busy. Are you really so clingy that you think three days apart gives you the right to chase me down?"

"Rouge told me you had the rest of the month off. So why don't you cut the crap and admit it?"

Damn that bat and her big mouth.

He didn't want to think about this anymore after the day of the funeral. Amy's loss only served to remind Shadow of why he stayed to himself in the first place. He swore up and down that agreement between them to stay in touch was just a fleeting kindness he extended to the hero. He needed everything to go back to the way it was.

Shadow reeled on the blue hedgehog, his voice low but venomous as he spat his words angrily in Sonic's face. He was well prepared to hurt some feelings and say countless things he didn't mean. Anything to get Sonic pissed enough at him to keep a healthy distance like he use to be.

"I don't need to deal with this, and I don't need to explain myself to you, Faker! You--"

"Shads..!" Sonic shouted cutting off the dark hedgehog mid tirade. He held one hand up pleadingly, the other pulling a pink spiral notebook out of his head quills. The two of them stayed perfectly still for a few heartbeats, Shadow pointing a finger dangerously close to Sonic's face. Once he was certain he had ultimate life form's full attention, he held the book out for Shadow to see.

Red eyes glanced briefly at the teddy bear notebook, meeting Sonic's again in confusion. It certainly did not belong to Shadow, and while Sonic was wearing a pink jacket at the moment that matched in color, the notebook didn't seem like it belonged to him either.

A weak smile spread across the hero's muzzle.

"Amy left us something."

 

No matter how many times he visited, Sonic always felt amazed at how relaxed he became when stepping into Shadow's apartment. Everything about the unit radiated tranquility; cool light gray walls, black simplistic furniture, the musky tang of body spray, the white noise of an oscillating fan continuously blowing somewhere in Shadow's bedroom. All the tension in his body disappeared instantly at the thought alone. Sonic had come to realize that over time this apartment had became an escape for him over and over again when running didn't seem to be enough anymore.

The dark hedgehog at first was annoyed Sonic would show up in his living room in the morning unannounced. He would find the hero flicking through channels on the couch, restless because of some dream or thought he couldn't run away from. Half asleep, but blue ears perking up at the sound of a groggy hedgehog; Shadow getting up at 5am as usual. Though over time, his appearances became much more tolerable. A grumbly 'good morning' and a friendly nod over two coffees had become a regular thing between them.

Even now as the rivals sat across from each other in the living room glaring, Sonic couldn't bring himself to stay angry at Shadow for long. A few years ago he might have chosen to run off and give the grumpy Gus time to cool down, but this was urgent.

The blue hedgehog sat on the floor leaning on the glass table anxiously. He was waiting for Shadow to ask what the notebook was for, what was in it, or to yell at him again and throw him out. Anything.

but the ultimate life form just stared at the book from the couch, elbows resting on his knees one leg tapping anxiously. His hands were folded over his mouth but Sonic could tell from the look in his eyes that there was probably frown under there.

"...Tails told me Amy had something really big planned for us just a few weeks before she died." Sonic started. He flipped the book so it faced Shadow just in case he wanted to take a look in it.

"Everything she wanted us to do was in this book. Ames wanted the two of us to go on a sort of 'Guy's Trip' im guessing."

"Ridiculous..." Shadow breathed softly. Though his tone sounded anything but skeptical.

"So...is this why you were following me? Just to tell me this?"

"Not just that. I want us to go on this trip together, Shads. Amy spent a lot of time and effort to put this together for us. I don't want all of that to go to waste."

The dark hedgehog shook his head slowly and leaned back into the dark cushions.

"No."

"No?? Give me one good reason why you won't go--and don't come at me with that 'I'm busy' crap. You have a whole month off!" Sonic reached over and lifted the notebook's cover.

"C'mon man, look at thi--"

Shadow slammed his hand over the book, nearly taking off Sonic's fingers in the process. Slowly, he slid the book off of the table and placed it on the other side of the couch out of Sonic's reach.

"I don't want to see what's inside."

"What the hell? Why not?! Don't you care about what Amy did for us? What she's done for you?"

dark gloved hands folded neatly over crossed legs, their owner looking as bored as possible with the whole conversation.

"Of course I care. Miss Rose was a kind young woman and I appreciate everything she did for me. However, Sonic, she is gone. This won't bring her back. The best thing we can do right now is just keep the notebook safe and try to get on with--"

"Stop that."

Shadow hesitated for a moment, surprised at the even tone coming from the blue hero. He expected to be punched or charged into as usual, the two of them having a shared trait of being short-tempered something he was counting on. But Sonic seemed calmer than he was a minute ago though only by a small margin; his fists were clenched on the glass table itching to make contact with Shadow's face.

"Stop what?"

"Stop doing that. Acting like you don't care when I know you care. You think acting like an asshole will make it easier for you, but it won't. I know you too well, and you can't get rid of me like that. You cared about Amy. Why are you trying so hard to act like you don't?" Sonic's eyes bore into the dark hedgehog, relentlessly.

It was the kind of look Shadow had seen many times before. He wasn't going to give up on this, he could tell. The hero would very well fight Shadow and force him to come with him if it were necessary, and a small part of Shadow wanted to fight tooth and nail instead of talking about it with the Faker.

"Sonic. Amy is gone. I don't want to run around trying to keep her memory alive by doing things she wished for us. I want to move on. I have already carried the painful, lonely burden of trying to grasp at what remains of a friend I had lost."

The ultimate life form closed his eyes, breathing slowly. His voice lowered to a pained whisper.

"I don't want to do it again. I can't."

Sonic's glare softened at Shadow's confession; he had nearly forgotten about the dark hedgehog's human sister, Maria. The brave girl had chosen to save Shadow's life instead of her own while aboard the Ark, and he had not forgiven himself since the incident. Maria wanted her friend to protect the people of the world and live a wonderful life that she couldn't.

Shadow had lived by that promise every day of his life, just for her.

The blue hedgehog edged himself onto the couch to sit beside Shadow, a hand placed on his shoulder for comfort.

"Shads...I'm so sorry--"

"It's fine," Shadow replied quickly.

"I understand...what you're feeling, hedgehog. I've felt it once before. Someone gone from your life much too soon, and there were a million things you wish you could have done to change it."

He glanced spitefully at the golden inhibitor rings around his wrists, their very existence mocking him to this day.

"I am the ultimate life form...and that still was not enough."

A peach arm snuck into the peripheral of Shadow's vision as Sonic came in closer for a side hug. This time Shadow was prepared for it, leaning into the gesture rather than returning the favor this time.

"If you don't want to go, that's okay." The hero said, his breath ghosting over Shadow's muzzle. The dark hedgehog flinched; something about the whole scenario made him a little too warm. Sonic mistook the action as a signal to end the hug and eased off of Shadow, settling back onto the couch.

"I'll go by myself; you didn't drag me to the funeral, so I won't drag you on this trip." Somehow the blue hero found the energy to flash that classic grin in his rival's direction.

"Besides, it'll be wayyyy faster doing it on my own without havin' to wait on your slow ass, Grandpa."

An explosive laugh escaped Shadow before he could catch it. He hunched over, putting a hand to his mouth immediately and clearing his throat. A dark blush appeared on his muzzle, the anti hero internally cursing himself as he noticed Sonic's genuine smile quickly morphing into that insufferable cocky one.

"What."

"You laughed." Sonic said inching closer.

"An actual laugh this time! Not that Darth Vader chuckle you're always doing."

The ultimate life form shrugged, putting his arms behind his head trying to play it off.

"You simply caught me off guard with a humorous reply that's all, there's no need to make a big--"

"I wanna hear it again, man. Its rare to hear you be actually happy like that." Sonic rested his head in his hands eyes trained on his rival with a goofy grin.

"I could tell another joke about you being old if you--"

"No."

"Ugh, you never let me do anythinggggg...and I'm gonna be gone for a while too, right? Don't I at least get a really good memory before I head out?"

Shadow tilted his head, seeming to consider the option.

"Not necessary."

"What--how is it not necessary?"

The dark hedgehog left his place on the couch and headed into the small kitchen area. He briefly eyed the potted succulent plants near the sink and began rummaging around in the black cabinets.

"I'm sure you'll fall on your face or down a cliff eventually during our trip, so you'll probably hear it again at some point."

"Oh yeah? Well I bet I you twenty bucks that I--...wait, our trip?" Sonic sped over to the kitchen counter, his upper body sprawled out on the white marble surface.

"You changed your mind? You're coming with me?!"

Shadow grimaced at the hedgehog getting--what the ultimate life form could only describe as 'belly prints'--on his clean, sanitary counter. Ignoring it for the time being, he pulled a large glass out of the cabinet and filled it with water from the sink.

"Yes. I have decided I'll go with you after all."

"Hah, lemme guess, you knew you were gonna miss all this?" The hero gestured to himself, even going so far as to slide a hand suggestively up his hip and give his rival a rather promiscuous look through hooded eyes.

In hindsight he may have overreacted but Shadow's defense, dumping a glass of water on Sonic's head was a reflexive response.

"ppfttt! Can't you take a joke? Aw man, my stylish jacket!" Sonic sputtered, removing the pink varsity quickly.

Shadow rolled his eyes and refilled the glass once again.

"It's just water, it will dry. Also believe it or not, I did not change my mind because of--" Shadow gestured dismissively in the hedgehog's direction "--whatever 'all that' is you claim to have. I just pray it isn't contagious."

The ultimate life from poured water into his succulents carefully, measuring each amount they needed for a few weeks at the most. He grabbed a rag from the kitchen drawer and tossed it on the counter in Sonic's direction.

"I decided to come along because the only thing worse than mourning a second time, is doing it alone for the first time. Besides I had told you that we would spend time together to get through this. I shouldn't have tried to go back on my word. I apologize."

"It's okay, dude. I get why you didn't want to, but I'm glad you're doing this with me." The blue hedgehog replied patting his quills down with the kitchen rag.

"I'm sure Ames appreciates what you're doing too. Finally spending time with you're favorite hedgehog."

"I don't know what you mean; I spend an ample amount of time by myself."

"Oh shut up, nerd."

 

Sonic had never stayed overnight before.

The hero had suggested staying at the apartment and getting a fresh start in the morning on their trip. Shadow allowed him to stay, knowing that Sonic would barge into his home regardless before he woke up tomorrow morning.

Unsure of how to spend the night, the blue hedgehog suggested they simply order a pizza and watch Disney movies, after Shadow causally stating he had only ever seen Snow White while aboard the Ark. Sonic vehemently suggested they watch 'Hercules' together as it was one of his favorites. The ultimate life form was familiar with the greek myth of Hercules and found it oddly fitting his rival idolized someone 'on his level'. To his disappointment Sonic seemed to take the remark as a compliment.

The two of them sat on the small couch together in front of the flat screen, Sonic insisting that turning off all the lights made it feel more like a movie theater. Shadow had to agree, it did feel like they were in a private showing in his own home, and it was something he would definitely do again in the future.

However as hard as he tried, the dark hedgehog could not focus on the movie.

Something felt...off.

Shadow couldn't figure out exactly what was wrong, but everything seemed to have a different flavor to it now that his rival was here after hours.

The current setting had everything to be the ideal night; the soft light radiating from the television, warm air circulating around the apartment, and the satisfying fullness of a meal over ice tea, curling at the edges of the dark hedgehog's consciousness urging him to sleep.

But instead, Shadow felt wired and anxious as if his body was anticipating something his mind had not caught up to just yet.The only thing in his head was the tingling sensation Shadow felt from the hero's breath during their hug a few hours earlier. The hedgehog in question was lying on the couch beside him taking up most of the sitting space. Blue legs hanging over the arm of the furniture, his head a few inches away from touching Shadow's thigh. The ultimate life form moved his leg away by a fraction to avoid accidentally touching him; somehow any physical contact in this situation seemed inappropriate.

Something soft and heavy leaned into Shadow's lap, the hedgehog flinching immediately at the sudden contact. He froze; mischievous emerald eyes stared back at him, illuminated by the light from the TV.

"My leg is not a pillow, Faker." He grumbled lifting his knee slightly to nudge his rival. The hero didn't move, choosing instead to put both arms behind his head to get more comfortable.

"You seem like you're not enjoying the movie, Shads. What's up? I mean I know it's probably not a very grown-up film but I thought you'd be into Hades at least."

"The movie is fine, I'm enjoying it despite the historical inaccuracies. I suppose I'm just not in the mood for it is all."

Sonic's smile faltered a bit but prompted him to continue.

"What kind of mood are you in...?"

"I don't know. Honestly. I'm not avoiding your question this time, I genuinely am unsure."

"Oh?" The hero narrowed his eyes thoughtfully, resting his arms on his chest.

"Describe it to me then."

"Normally in this setting I would be relaxed, perhaps even asleep right now. Having you here feels...intense. Though not in a negative way." Blue ears perked up, though Sonic did not move from his place in Shadow's lap.

"I've kind of felt the same way, you know? Maybe we just aren't use to being with each other alone...but we want to be? I couldn't take it anymore so I decided to get your attention, break the ice. I thought it would make me feel a little better to annoy ya a bit."

An exasperated breath left Sonic's lips as he turned back around to face Shadow. His eyes somehow seemed darker than before, a burning intensity behind them that seemed to swallow the ultimate life form whole.

"If I'm being honest, messing with you just made me feel even more...like this."

The two rivals stared at each other for what seemed like ages, the only sound radiating in Shadow's ears were his own heartbeat and Sonic's shallow breaths. He was suddenly very aware that the hero was still in his lap, the contact setting all of his nerves on fire. Whatever force that had frozen the two hedgehogs in time was beyond them both, and before Shadow even realized it he was leaning forward, agonizingly slow...

A loud buzzing sounded from somewhere in the dark, bringing them both back to reality in an instant. Sonic sat up quickly and narrowly missed colliding with Shadow's face, the dark hedgehog leaning back into the couch in surprise.

"Oh shoot that's Tails!" The hero said hastily, turning over the pizza box looking for his cellphone.

"I've been gone all day and forgot to tell him what's up, again." Shadow reached in between the couch cushions and pulled out the phone, its obnoxious ringtone even more infuriating now that he could hear it clearly.

'~My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard

And they're like, it's better than yours

Damn right it's better than yours

I can teach you, but I have to charge--~'

"I believe this is what you're looking for, hedgehog?" Shadow asked holding the offending object up in the air. Sonic nodded, swiping the phone and answering it quickly with a sheepish grin.

"Heya Tails! What's up?" The hero answered with his usual chipper attitude.

"...yeah I'm at Shad's place right now, we're going to head out early in the morning...nah I haven't looked in it yet..." The ultimate life form suddenly felt detached from the situation as Sonic chatted idly with his brother. It was as if the strange energy between them had not happened, and if Shadow did not remember nearly losing control of himself, he would have thought just that.

The worst part was that he had no idea what he intended to do if the phone had not interrupted them. Deep down Shadow hoped Sonic had not notice his slight movement, or at the very least didn't think much of it. Judging from his demeanor Shadow figured it was one or the other.

"Hey," He said trying to get Sonic's attention.

The blue hedgehog had walked into the kitchen with his phone, pouring himself some more iced tea. He glanced up at Shadow, holding up a finger so he could address Tails first.

"Hold on little buddy. What 'cha need, Shads?"

"I'm going to head to bed." Shadow said tiredly. "It's getting late. You can sleep on the couch. I have blankets and pillows in the hall closet if you need any."

For a moment the blue hero seemed disappointed but said nothing more and gave Shadow a quick nod. The dark hedgehog could hear a muffled high voice from the phone speaker and Sonic seemed to be listening to Tails intently once again. Shadow shrugged and got up from the couch when the hero suddenly started waving his hand to get his attention. The ultimate life form glanced in his direction, Sonic mouthing a silent 'Goodnight' and a goofy smile.

Shadow rolled his eyes but smirked at the gesture, mouthing back 'Thank You Faker'. He lingered for a few heartbeats to see Sonic's cocky grin at getting him to play along, before eventually retiring to his bedroom.

"So I've been meaning to ask, will you and Shadow be okay being with each other for so long?" Tails asked, concerned. Sonic nodded in reply, then shook his head realizing his brother couldn't see the gesture.

"Yeah we'll be fine. We're friends remember? Plus he wants to help me get through this and I appreciate that, especially coming from him."

"Ah, well, I hope you have a good time with him." Sonic smiled to himself, still thinking about the intense moment they had on the couch. Nothing had happened and yet so much had happened. Something felt different and the hedgehog's mind was buzzing with anticipation at what this trip held for them both.

"Don't worry little bro, I have a feeling this trip will be a pretty wild ride."

Chapter Text

"Well good morning, grumpy~"

"mhmmeehhh..."

Sonic snickered into his coffee at the ultimate life form's groggy reply. Shadow had slept longer than he usually would and didn't get out of bed until around 10am.

'Slept' is a strong word.

Shadow had been up a good portion of the night tossing and turning in his bed. The hedgehog stared at the ceiling in defeat, spending hours trying to calm his mind and forget the sensations he felt from Sonic's presence that night. Unfortunately, by the time he was able to rest it was already 8am. Two hours of sleep is enough for Shadow to function, especially since he does not require sleep for survival like most people.

Still, it didn't mean he liked it.

Groggy, grumpy and head quills sticking out at different angles, the dark hedgehog eased himself into a seat at the breakfast nook in the kitchen. Sonic sat beside him and slipped a warm mug of coffee into Shadow's hands. He took a small sip, nodding in approval at the taste; straight and black just the way he liked it.

"Thanks," He grumbled softly.

"No problem," The hero replied. He smoothed some of Shadow's quills back into place, letting out an amused snort at a few bouncing back into their frazzled state.

"Didn't sleep well I take it?"

"I've had better."

"Hah, I bet. you look like crap." The ultimate life form scowled into his coffee at the remark but Sonic hadn't noticed, the hero retrieving Amy's notebook out of his head quills.

"Ah, anyway, I was waiting for you to get up so I can read the notebook with ya." Shadow raised an eyebrow curiously. He assumed that Sonic had flipped through the whole thing at least once already; the hedgehog was anything but patient after all.

"You haven't looked through it?"

"The first page explicitly says not to, so I didn't." he replied.

"There's rules Amy wrote on the first page for us to follow when doing this. Some of them are weird, but I guess we'll find out later?"

Shadow narrowed his eyes in confusion. The blue hedgehog shrugged and opened the notebook, sliding it over for Shadow to see for himself. Just as his rival said, Amy's delicate hand writing neatly listed the requirements for their adventure.

SonicxShadow's Rose Drop Adventure Rules:

#1 Don't even think about skipping ahead to see where the next locations are! You'll ruin the whole thing! I don't care how much you wanna see what's next Sonic, I will hunt you down. This goes for you too, SHADOW.

#2 Take pictures of every place you go, including places you stop along the way. Make sure you take some photos together! Again, this means you too Shadow.

#3 post pictures with #RoseDrops online and tag my profile page. Don't ask questions just do it.

#4 Also tag Vector. You can find him on my friend's list. It's important for one of the locations. Don't ask questions just do it.

#5 Use your heads to figure out what you're supposed to do. I have some clues to nudge you in the right direction. Be resourceful, be spiritual, be intuitive; in other words, use the internet if you gotta!

#6 have fun!

"Number six technically isn't a rule..."

"Aaaaand you're already breaking it." Sonic said sliding the book back over to his side of the table. Ungloved hands ran idly over the many sparkles and stickers decorating the edges of the first page.

"I really wanted to know where she was sending us because I'm excited...but I also love the thrill of not knowing at the same time. Plus I wanna do this exactly the way she asked us to."

Shadow eyed the hero thoughtfully. Sonic seemed resolute in his choice to follow the instructions thoroughly but also anxious to get started, and Shadow had to admit couldn't fault the guy for his impatience. He chugged the rest of his coffee, ignoring the heat and set the mug down with a loud thunk. The dark hedgehog figured that they may as well start right now, despite his body and mind aching for a few more hours of rest.

"Go ahead and turn the page, I know you want to. It's the first day, so we might as well see where she wants us to go."

Blue ears pinned forward as green eyes lit up, both of the responses pulling a smirk from the ultimate life form's lips.

"Are you sure? You look pretty tired-"

"Just do it." Shadow said rolling his eyes. He nudged the blue hero playfully and went to get more coffee from the pot, taking his rival's mug along with him.

Sonic chuckled at the gentle push; Shadow being in such a good mood was a rarity. Quickly the hedgehog turned the page, his eyes roving over the text before letting out an exaggerated groan. His body slumped on the table suddenly drained of all the wired energy he had a minute ago.

"What's wrong?" Shadow asked bringing their mugs back to the table. Sonic said nothing, his head lolled back in the seat dramatically. Suddenly he raised one hand in the air, and pointed roughly at the notebook page.

The ultimate life form squinted at the page, unsure of what the issue was. A large tarot card labeled 'Queen of Cups' was taped to the page, followed by Amy's hand writing beneath it:

'Mystic Ruins; Head to Angel Island.'

"I still don't see the problem."

The hero leaned forward again, a long sigh escaping his lips as he closed the notebook. Something akin to annoyance flashed across his face but was quickly replaced with guilt.

"I haven't seen Knuckles since the week Amy died."

"Is that bad? The echidna stays to himself most of the time. He only showed up to the funeral and promptly left before the burial. Even Rouge told me he hasn't spoken to her since."

"No, you don't understand Shads..." Sonic whined pushing himself away from the table.

"I begged Knuckles to go the the funeral with me because I didn't think I could go by myself. He wasn't gonna go because he didn't want to see Amy that way any more than I did...so when I didn't go..."

"Oh."

"Yeah."

"You didn't show up to support him through this, even though he showed up to support you, correct?" The hero groaned again, wincing a little as he slapped a hand over his face in frustration.

"Chaos, it sounds so bad when you say it like that..."

"Because it is bad." Shadow chided him softly, flicking Sonic squarely in the forehead for emphasis.

"However, I suppose I have no room to judge. I tried to do the same to you."

"Why are we so bad at this...?"

"Well...I was designed to be the ultimate bioweapon, so discussing feelings was not exactly something I was made for." Shadow replied pouring Sonic's unfinished coffee into his cup. He would need all the caffeine he could get today for this mess.

"I'm...not sure what your excuse is, hedgehog."

"Me either. Mind if I use yours...?"

The ultimate life form let out an amused snort into his mug.

"I'm afraid being cute won't work with the echidna. you will have to apologize to him if we're even going to set foot on Angel Island."

Sonic ran a hand through blue quills last thing he wanted to do was apologize and deal with Knuckles' explosive temper, even if he was in the wrong. Unfortunately Shadow was right. If they wanted to do this, they needed to make peace with him.

Plus If the hero was being honest with himself, he felt terrible for what he had put the guardian through.

"Ok. You're right." Sonic said snatching the notebook up from the kitchen table. He nodded to the dark hedgehog, emerald eyes full of determination.

"Let's go."

 

Cool Autumn air buffeted the two hedgehogs as they appeared just outside Mystic Ruins. Tall cliffs covered in greenish brown grass towered over the area, dark palm trees swaying viciously in the harsh breeze. Ancient monuments once a stark contrast to the lush green vegetation, now blending into the browns and reds of the season.

Sonic's ears swiveled continuously, trying to pinpoint a certain sound amid the wind and rushing waterfalls in the distance. He began to slow down to a jog, Shadow matching his pace so as not to lose track of him.

"What are you looking for?"

"Tails' second workshop," The blue hedgehog replied.

"I haven't had a reason to come here in a long time so anytime I do, I usually just listen for the big water pump thingy attached to his workshop." He frowned a little, blue ears flicking in irritation at the wind.

"You mean the water powered generator." Shadow corrected.

"Yeah, that thing. I usually just make my way toward that and I know where I am but all this damn wind is making it impossible."

"You don't know your way to the shoreline without it? Hedgehog it's-"

"-ah wait, shut up I hear it!" Sonic exclaimed as he sped off further into the ruins. Shadow pinched the bridge of his nose, reluctantly following the hero. He could already tell the blue idiot was going to be a handful traveling together if he couldn't find his way around a place he had been countless times before.

The sound Sonic was looking for became louder as they went on, a low thrum and steady clanking assaulting Shadow's ears. Soon the brownish yellow form of Tails' second workshop briefly came into view. From what Shadow could tell Tails seemed to still use the building, if the Tornado in the hangar and neatly cut grass was anything to go by.

He assumed Sonic knew exactly where he was going now given the extra burst of speed he put on shortly after passing the workshop. Soon the large cliffs and thick vegetation began to thin out, bright white sand replacing brittle Autumn grass underfoot.

The blue hedgehog skidded to a halt a few feet away from the shoreline, abruptly. He stood for a few seconds staring at the sky, then kicked the sand angrily.

"Chaos, that asshole!"

Shadow came up beside him following Sonic's line of sight in the sky. Angel Island was a small dot far over the ocean. it was much higher than usual, and even the ultimate life form himself was having trouble sensing the Master Emerald from their position.

"It appears the guardian is making a clear statement that he wishes to be alone."

"I mean-yeah...!" Sonic sighed, exasperated. How on Mobius was he supposed to apologize to the knucklehead if he couldn't even go see him?

"I can't slingshot myself all the way up there in the ocean, and I'm not getting the Tornado; its for emergencies..."

"We could Chaos Control." Shadow suggested reaching behind his head. Slowly he pulled a bright green Emerald from his head quills, squinting at the light radiating from the powerful gem.

"What? You have a Chaos Emerald with you?" The blue hedgehog asked.

"Like always?"

"Naturally. There have been few reasons to actually use them as of late but I always keep this one for emergencies." Shadow blinked in confusion, turning to the hero in disbelief.

"Are you telling me you don't keep one with you? At all?"

"Uh, no? Once those things scatter, I leave them be unless we need 'em. Everyone would expect me to have one anyway, so I try not to keep one around. Don't want it stolen by someone. Again."

"Hm." The ultimate life form shifted the Chaos Emerald under his arm, a series of sickening pops sounding off as he casually cracked his knuckles.

"Funny. I don't have that problem."

Sonic shot an annoyed glare in Shadow's direction at the remark but it quickly changed to mischievous grin. The hero snickered to himself, snatching the green gem from Shadow while he was distracted. The dark hedgehog scowled, barely having time to touch the Emerald before a loud and obnoxious 'Chaos Control!' rang in his ears.

 

"Ah damn, I was trying to get us to the altar..." Sonic sighed, looking around the island. Unlike Mystic Ruins, Angel Island remained lush and healthy even in the bitterest of seasons. Sonic assumed it was due to the Master Emerald's endless Chaos Energy keeping the Island from changing. Even early snowfall from the past few days had not yet melted, giving a light sparkling dust to the evergreen plant life.

He whistled in awe taking it all in; the hero had never visited the Island in the colder months before.

A harsh smack to the back of the head interrupted his sightseeing.

"Maybe if you hadn't snatched it from me we would have been at the altar right now, Faker." Shadow growled walking ahead of him. He narrowed his eyes at the triangular monument far off in the distance.

"we're not terribly far from the altar right now but the vegetation quite dense, so running straight through is probably a bad idea. Walking is the best option."

Sonic nodded absently rubbing the back of his head. It would probably leave a bruise but he would live. Hopefully.

"Yeah, yeah...good idea, grampa." The blue hedgehog said sourly. Shadow ignored the comment continuing through the trees. The guardian would eventually sense them on the island, so he figured they would meet him halfway.

The ultimate life form figured that this was probably a much better idea in hindsight; appearing in front of the angry echidna at the altar during such a sensitive time was just asking for a brawl he was not in the mood for.

"Hey what's this by the way?" Sonic pipped up suddenly. He held the notebook up facing in Shadow's direction, pointing at the Tarot card still taped to the second page.

"It must mean something if Amy put it here above her directions to go to Angel Island, right?"

The dark hedgehog studied the card intently. It pictured a queen in a flowing robe seated on the shore on a carved stone throne. In her hand sat large golden cup, its intricate religious design a stark contrast to the rest of the card.

"Hm...'Queen of Cups'. I am not familiar with much of the Minor Arcana. Is there anything else?"

Sonic shook his head, briefly looking in the back of the book. He removed the taped card from the page and handed it to Shadow.

"You can look at it if you want but there's none that I can se-hey! There was writing under it on the notebook page!"

"Oh? What does it say?"

"Eh...not much? it says...intuition, sensitivity, warmth, psychic, empathy femininity..."

The ultimate life form narrowed his eyes in thought. He knew from speaking to Amy in the past at length that Tarot cards had much more intricate meanings than a few key words, though they were helpful for customers. Perhaps she was simplifying it for the two hedgehogs? Though the only thing that laid at Angel Island were lost ancient secrets and the Guardian himself; and Knuckles was anything but sensitive or feminine.

"Hm..I suppose we will find out once we reach the altar-"

"You won't make it there without a fight."

Shadow's head snapped upward, gaze trained on the looming figure in the high canopy of the trees. Long crimson quills were pinned back in a stiff ponytail, two loose on either side framing the Echidna's hardened face. Knuckles squatted low and menacing, his legs hidden by an oversized rusty coat. Shadow made a mental note to tell Rouge the echidna was actually wearing the clothes she gave him despite protests he had made in the past.

Knuckles glared down at them, violet eyes boring into Sonic's green so intensely that he pretty was sure the guardian was trying to use all the Chaos energy on the island to burn a hole in his head.

Hey...Knux...how ya doin?" Sonic said nervously, walking toward the base of the tree.

"Leave."

"dude just hear me out, please?"

"I don't want to hear anything from you. Get the fuck out of here before I make you."

Sonic shook his head and placed both hands on the tree trunk. He was ready to wrestle Knuckles out of the tree if he had to.

"I'm not going anywhere, dude. I just want to apologize for-"

The guardian dropped heavily, fist first, out of the tree directly above Sonic's head. He dodged backwards just in time to escape the hit, a large crater where a gloved spiked fist met the earth.

"What the hell, man?!"

"Fuck you!" Knuckles growled savagely. He jerked his fist out of the ground shifting into a defensive stance.

"I'm banning your ass from the Island. Unless something major happens or the world is in trouble, I don't want to see your goofy ass face ever again!"

"Aw c'mon are you for real?! Knux, I-!"

"Its not an emergency situation...but it is an important one." Shadow interrupted suddenly. He had been regarding the scene with patient indifference but it was clear they were getting nowhere. The guardian was not going to listen to anything Sonic had to say.

He held up the Tarot card still in his hand, the Queen of Cups facing outward for Knuckles to see.

"Amy left us this card as a clue. She wanted us to come to the Island. Do you know why?"

Violet eyes narrowed in suspicion at the card, flickering between Shadow and the image of the Queen. He still did not trust the ultimate life form after all these years, but Shadow expected nothing less from the solitary guardian right now; especially after what Sonic had put him through as of late.

Knuckle's expression changed drastically, something about Amy's request finally clicking in the back of his mind. The echidna sighed and relaxed his stance, blind rage from earlier replaced with solemn resignation.

"I don't know anything about Tarot, but I know why she told you to come here." Knuckles said at last.

"Follow me."

 

Snow crunched lightly underfoot as the trio made their way to the Altar of the Emeralds in silence. crumbled ancient pillars stuck out of the ground surrounding a triangular plateau in the center. At the very top of the altar an enormous Emerald sat transfixed into the stone surface, its translucent glow bathing the surrounding area in a soft beautiful light.

Knuckles was first to reach the Master Emerald and waited patiently for the hedgehogs to make their way up the stairs. Sonic was lagging behind, the harsh winds even more unbearable at this altitude and no trees were nearby to shield him from the cold. Shadow and Knuckles seemed unaffected; one having a tolerance for extreme conditions, the other wearing a coat suited for the weather.

The pink varsity was stylish, but it wasn't doing the hero any favors.

"C'mon Sonic we don't got all day!" The guardian shouted over the wind.

"I'm coming! Chaos! Gimme a minute its cold as shit!"

"Huh, never thought I'd be having this conversation with the fastest thing alive."

Sonic finally made his way up to the top with the others, shivering intensely and blue ears flatted and dusted with pink. He shuffled over to Shadow's side using him as a shield to block out most of the wind.

"Wow, okay I guess I'm just a wall now."

"Survival strats, dude."

"Right. Anyway, why exactly we're we directed by Amy to come here, echidna?" Shadow asked, eyeing the Master Emerald.

"Is something wrong with it?"

Knuckles shook his head. "Nah. If there was she wouldn't have known about it before the three of us did. Amy made an odd request a couple of months ago." He tapped his foot on the stone floor thoughtfully, trying to remember exactly why she asked...

"You guys are well aware you're two of the most powerful natural Chaos users in the universe, right? You guys have manipulated Chaos so many times and seem to be able to just Chaos Control wherever you damn well please, so this should work out fine." The guardian put a hand on the gemstone and closed his eyes, motioning for the hedgehogs to do the same.

"You gonna tell us what 'this' is?" Sonic asked hesitantly touching the smooth surface.

"Nope."

"Well shit."

Shadow needed no further instruction and silently placed a hand on it as well. The warmth of the Master Emerald flowed through his palm traveling further into his body as Knuckles softly recited Tikal's Prayer;

The servers are the seven Chaos.

Chaos is power...

Power enriched by the heart.

The controller serves to unify the Chaos.

A growing heat enveloped the ultimate life form softly, soothing away his aches and fatigue from earlier this morning. He exhaled, mind slowly drifting into tranquil contentment. Suddenly something prodded into his mind, a happier feeling washed over him though Shadow somehow felt it was not his own...

It was familiar energy, yet strange at the same time. Briefly the sensation reminded him of the connection with the Black Arms but this was not demanding or controlling, nor did he hear any harsh voices in his head. The aura seemed to have a will of its own, assaulting Shadow every few seconds with explosions of happiness, warmth, and confusion. He grimaced, the restless nature of the presence reminded him of the blue idiot. Suddenly they stopped. Though he could not hear any words, one immediately popped into his thoughts as if from someone else entirely.

'Shads...?'

The dark hedgehog opened his eyes, red pupils dilated as he reared away from the gemstone in shock. What on Mobius was that?

"Whoa..." Sonic said looking just as confused and surprised as Shadow felt.

"What just...did you...feel that?"

He nodded cautiously, though Shadow was still unsure what 'that' was. The blue hero's ears pricked up, touching his arms and cheeks as if looking for something.

"Whoa I'm not cold anymore!" he exclaimed as he lifted his arms in the air, accidentally brushing against Shadow's shoulder.

Overwhelmed, Shadow immediately backed away from him, the chaos energy washing over the ultimate life form intensely at the contact. What just happened? It didn't hurt but...

"Whoa! did it just get super cold again? What the heck?"

The blue hero hugged himself, placing a hand quickly on the Master Emerald once more. He hoped the gem was the source of the heat, but frowned when his hand met the cold smooth surface.

"Can you make it do it again? I'm freezing!"

Knuckles chuckled softly and opened his eyes. His previously sour mood seemingly lifted by the hedgehogs' confusion.

"Hah...I knew this would be funny."

"And what exactly is so hilarious?" Shadow asked harshly.

"Relax, Edgy, I just did what Amy asked me to do."

Sonic scooted closer to Shadow using him as a shield once again. The dark hedgehog flinching away on contact.

"A-and what exactly did you do?"

"I tuned your Chaos energies."

green and red eyes blinked in confusion.

"AAaaannnnnnddddd that means...?"

"*-sigh-* Okay look. At first, all you could do was sense Chaos Energy if it was high or low right? And usually the highest energy around is either the M.E. or one of you two. Pretty basic.

Now, it's different. You can sense each other's energy signatures; kind of like a fingerprint? You can read the other person's status physically and emotionally through your chaos wavelengths, and transfer energy back and forth through touch if necessary. Since grumpy is basically a natural Chaos-fueled furnace, that's why you got so warm I'm guessing." The guardian paused, tapping his foot wondering if he had forgotten anything. Violet eyes gazed thoughtfully into the large mystic gem.

"This is the basis of the same connection Tikal was able to use to understand the Chaos Guardian better than anyone else. But you can only sense each other in this way, not everyone."

"Can we reverse it?" Sonic asked warily.

" 'dunno how."

"Oh, well...then thanks! So uhh...how does this work?" The blue hero narrowed his eyes at Shadow, but nothing happened.

"Stop trying to force me to laugh." The dark hedgehog said dryly.

"Wow, you can read my mind now?"

"No, you're just that predictable. Here, give me your hand." Sonic held out his arm, the instant Shadow touched him the blue hero's body was enveloped in warmth again.

"Chaos, that's so much better..." He sighed rubbing the feeling back into his arms.

"How'd you do that?"

"I understand to some extent how this kind of bond works...though it was nowhere near as absolute as the hivemind of the Black Arms...which is a good thing. I simply willed a portion of my energy toward yours then touched you." He let go of the blue hedgehog studying him carefully.

"Try again."

Sonic nodded, grasping Shadow's hand and focused...

The ultimate life form's aura was continuous and strong like a sturdy fortress...there were no significant spikes of emotion but calm anticipation radiating through the wavelength...

hesitantly, Sonic pushed against it, feeling the energy intensify for a few heartbeats before it died down again. Shadow nodded appreciatively, a tingling sensation left behind in his fingertips as they released.

"There you go," He said softly, "you did it."

"Oh cool!...So why aren't you freezing your ass off?"

"Energy generates heat, Faker. Even if it could be cold, I'm sure I would be able to endure it."

"Tsk. Lucky bastard."

"Alright, alright, now get off my Island." The guardian said lazily, shooing the hedgehogs off the altar.

"Wait, so that's it?" Sonic asked turning to Knuckles quickly. "W-wait why did Amy ask you to do that? how did she even know we could do that?"

"She asked did I know any ancient methods about connecting or making people closer. Thought it would be useful for you two to have and I agreed with her; its convenient for you to be able to track each other down and tell how the other is doing in a crisis when nobody can find you guys."

Shadow had a hard time believing that was why Amy asked Knuckles to do this, but he kept the thought to himself.

"Well that's...weird? But okay." Sonic replied with a lopsided grin. The guardian shrugged, dismissive. He finished his task that he promised to the pink hedgehog, and now was waiting for them to leave.

"Hey, Knux...listen um..."

Sonic stalled for a few heartbeats a little unsure of how to phrase what was on his mind properly. He shrugged and walked closer to Knuckles, patting him comfortingly on the shoulder. The echidna flinched at the contact but didn't shake him off.

"I wanted to apologize for not showing up to the funeral with you. I know you were counting on me, and I was the one who made you come...I want you to know I didn't plan on bailing I just couldn't do it when the time came. That's no excuse though. I'm sorry, man, for real."

The red guardian closed his eyes and shook his head slowly, his rage long subsided about the whole ordeal.

"I'm alright now, don't sweat it. I managed. Plus, you and I felt the same way, neither of us wanted to be there." red lids opened again, anguish evident in his glossy violet gaze.

"If anything...I'm just glad I got to say goodbye."

Sonic nodded in understanding, taking his hand from Knuckles' shoulder. He knew the echidna was not particularly close to many people and did not see the pink hedgehog often, but Amy had been a longtime friend regardless. There were so few memories between Knuckles and Amy that did not involve saving the world, and Sonic wondered if situations like this ever made his friend regret his duty as guardian.

"We should get going." Shadow said quietly after a few moments.

Knuckles nodded and playfully nudged Sonic in the ribs.

"Yeah, you guys have a trip ahead of you don't ya? Lemme know how it goes."

"Of course man, I'll catch ya later, okay?" the blue hedgehog replied backing away. Shadow was already waiting for him at the base of the altar tapping his foot impatiently. With one last quick wave goodbye, Sonic disappeared down the stairs to meet him.

Knuckles watched them go, a heavy sigh escaping his lips once the two teleported away. He sat down on the altar alone once again, the strong winds the only sound as if the hedgehogs he had just been talking to never existed.

The guardian bit his lip thinking about how quickly one of his friends slipped through his fingers and the memories he missed out on making. All the times she invited him to visit, and all the times he refused for the sake of the Master Emerald. He was well aware that he would not live forever like the ultimate life form, or an extended lifespan through the grace of Chaos energy like the blue hero.

Was he really going to sacrifice every fleeting moment of his life to this?

How long did he have before he lost someone else?

Grimacing at the thought, Knuckles dug into his coat pocket and pulled out his phone. He tapped quickly on the screen already knowing this number by heart now. A few generic rings sounded as he held it up to his ear, hoping it wouldn't go to voicemail. The ringing ended abruptly and the echidna breathed a sigh of relief.

"Hey, Rouge...are you busy right now?"

He smiled wide, hearing the bat's smooth reply on the other end of the line. She was never too busy for her favorite guardian, this he knew.

"Good. Mind if I drop by for a bit?"

Chapter Text

This was getting incredibly annoying.

The two hedgehogs were making their way slowly though the dense Autumn foliage of Mystic Ruins, Sonic suggesting they take a short break at Tail's workshop before heading out again to the next location. It would also give them time to get their bearings and figure out where to go next though Amy's clues. Shadow was more than happy to get out of the cold wind and relax somewhere for a little bit to recharge his batteries.

Unfortunately, thanks to their new bond, this was easier said than done.

He tried his best to block out the ever changing waves of energy radiating from Sonic and most of the time, he hardly noticed it. Though on occasion a spike of strong emotion would wash over him, breaking through the ultimate life form's thoughts. He knew the blue hero was an energetic guy who had trouble sitting still, but he had no idea his emotions were just as erratic; confusion, apprehension, happiness, excitement...

arousal?

Shadow halted.

This was getting ridiculous.

"Is something on your mind?" he asked the blue hero walking a few paces ahead of him. Sonic seemed startled by the sudden question, and turned quickly toward the dark hedgehog. Shadow realized the two of them had not spoken in several minutes since leaving Angel Island, yet the energy thrumming between them had been anything but silent.

"What do you mean?"

"Your wavelength is all over the place and constantly moving. I can sense pretty much every emotion that passes through your body and its aggravating."

Sonic blinked rapidly, and furrowed his brow in confusion.

"Really? Sorry. I just...I'm trying to sense yours but I barely feel anything half the time. Yours is like...a wall or something."

Shadow sighed, and crossed his arms. This is something the two of them would simply have to get use to. He figured eventually it would fade into the background and become second nature to them once they stopped focusing on it so much.

A foreign spike of surprise creeped into Shadow's pelt as he noticed Sonic shiver, another harsh gust of wind catching the blue hedgehog off guard. The energy he gave him a while ago to keep warm must have long since dissipated and while Shadow was not nearly as cold as the hero, the freezing air was still unpleasant. Thankfully he could see the vague shape of Tail's workshop a few yards away, the steady hum of a generator floating in on the breeze.

"Don't worry about it." He said dismissively. "Let's just get out of this weather."

 

The workshop was dark and stuffy when they stepped though the door but much warmer than it was outside. Sonic felt along the wall to his left searching until he felt the light switch and flipped it on.

The small building was cluttered with several different electronics lining the shelves and work desks, old inventions and parts of outdated Badnik models packed away throughout the workshop. Through the a dusty window on back wall a wing of the Tornado could be seen, the plane's hangar closed off by a garage door from the rest of the building.

Although there was little room to move around, everything had its place. Even spare parts and junk were stacked into various boxes along the walls. Tails seemed to have spent an ample amount of time cleaning and organizing this place in the past.

"Ah good, the TV is still hooked up!" Sonic said cheerily as he picked his way around the workshop to the far right wall. The ultimate life form hardly noticed the makeshift lounge area tucked into the corner; a single wooden table, two worn out beanbags and a brown loveseat positioned around an old television sitting atop a mini fridge. in the center were several different gaming systems, their cables strewn haphazardly on the floor. Sonic cut on the TV then busied himself with adjusting the thermostat hidden behind it.

"I had this set up anytime I had to stay here overnight with Tails. Have a seat anywhere you like, dude."

Shadow shrugged and eased himself into one of the beanbag chairs, finding it surprisingly comfortable. A low metallic hum vibrated through the workshop as stale warm air from the vents drifted past his nose. The place was hardly as nice as his tidy apartment but everything about it had its own charm that was uniquely Sonic, despite the building belonging to Tails.

"You look comfy." Sonic snickered sitting beside the dark hedgehog in the adjacent chair. Shadow merely closed his eyes and hummed in response, seeming to want to relax for the time being. Sonic shrugged and leaned back deciding to do the same.

Suddenly he felt a small prodding in the back of his mind. Shadow's Chaos wavelength was slightly warped now that he was calm, rolling in small gentle waves so low Sonic had almost missed it entirely. It felt a tad intrusive to be so in tune with his normally stoic rival's mood, but Sonic was starting to enjoy the subtle hints it gave him.

Experimentally, he calmed himself and focused on Shadow's energy to see if he could send anything deliberately to the dark hedgehog, instead of assaulting him with sporadic bursts of energy like before. The waves had a languid rhythm and Sonic waited patiently, a gentle push back breaking the pattern for a moment.

It seemed to have been a success as black lids fluttered open, Shadow's expression mildly concerned rather than annoyed like Sonic had anticipated.

"Sorry, just testing again. I'm trying to get the hang of this." he chuckled nervously.

"It's weird. You seem to be so sensitive to every change in my wavelength, but I can't seem to find yours unless I block everything out first."

"It sounds about right to me," Shadow grunted. "You tend to be impulsive and don't think things through, so you miss a lot of what's around you. I on the other hand, am much more observant and calculative."

"Yeah and get effected by every little thing along the way." The hero replied leaning into Shadow's personal space. The dark hedgehog was startled by how close he was but Sonic did not seem to notice, reaching into Shadow's quills to pull out the Tarot card.

"Ah, there it is." He said triumphantly. Sonic leaned back into his chair, turning the card over several times as he examined its image closely.

"What did the Queen of Cups mean again?"

Shadow gave an irritated sigh and sank deeper into the beanbag chair, smoothing his head quills back into place. The Faker was getting a little too comfortable. Though if the ultimate life form was being honest with himself, Its not something he really minded...

"I believe it was intuition, sensitivity, warmth, psychic, things of that nature. A clue to the Chaos tuning I imagine. At least we know now that the Tarot cards are very useful in determining what awaits us." Shadow leaned forward, elbows on the wooden table.

"Would you like to take a look at our next destination?"

"Yeah dude, let's do it!" Sonic pulled out the book and placed it on the wooden table between them, flipping it open. Suddenly the hero halted, blue brows creased in disappointment as he slowly shook his head.

"I forgot to take a pic of us on Angel Island."

"Ah," Shadow had forgotten about that detail as well.

"Perhaps you can take one now? Technically, we were told to go to Mystic Ruins. Besides it would be wise not to post the ancient island of Chaos guardians on social media."

Sonic tapped idly on his phone prepping the camera as he nodded in reply. He held his phone high above them both, giving his signature smile and a thumbs up.

"Yeah fair point. Alright, say cheese dude!"

Before the dark hedgehog could protest Sonic has snapped a picture, the digital click of the camera making Shadow's skin crawl. The hero had a cheeky smile plastered on his muzzle as he tapped on his phone to post it.

"Hah, got it. Aw, don't you just look grumpy as usual?"

"Sonic-"

"Ah, nope. Amy said we need to be in the pics remember? That means both of us. Besides I'm not an asshole. I wouldn't post it if you looked bad in it. you're not even looking my way during the picture and you still look great." a faint chime sounded from Sonic's phone, alerting him that the upload had completed.

An irritated snort, flattened ears, and a slightly pink muzzle were all Shadow gave him in reply. However, Sonic could still feel the rhythmic waves of his energy in the background so his rival obviously wasn't too upset with him.

Shadow leaned over the wooden table and turned the next page in the notebook, eager to change the subject. He didn't like taking pictures or having others see them; it felt eerie and intrusive to be documented like that but he would leave the topic alone for Amy's sake.

"Ah...Sand Ruins? Where is that...?"

"Oh shit really?! Lemme see!"

Sonic tossed his phone to the side, sliding the notebook toward his end of the table. As Shadow said, Amy had written 'Sand Ruins' underneath another Tarot taped to the page. The card's design was fairly simple compared to the first one, with eight wooden sticks sprouting horizontally from the left side of the image. A cloudless blue sky and green fields could be seen in the background, followed by a winding river at the bottom.

"Eight of Wands...? I don't get it..." The blue hero said tilting his head to the side.

"What's it supposed to be?"

"It isn't supposed to 'be' anything, hedgehog." Shadow lifted the Tarot card from the page, studying the writing underneath.

"The cards each have their own meanings but the pictures don't tell you anything by themselves. Hence Amy writing key words for us." The ultimate life form narrowed his eyes thoughtfully at the small print.

"Though I don't recall anything about a place called 'Sand Ruins' and these clues don't help; Freedom, Travel, Action, Speed-"

Suddenly Sonic slapped both hands on the table and interrupted Shadow's train of thought. The loud smack caught the dark hedgehog off guard, his entire body recoiling from him in surprise.

"The First Grand Prix!"

Shadow blinked in confusion.

"The w-what?"

"The racing! I know you weren't there, not for the first one, but this is awesome!"

"Slow down, what are you talking about?"

The hero straighted up quickly, pressing his hands together trying to hold in his excitement at the memory. Sonic had nearly forgotten about the first time he used extreme gear and how intense it was to participate in such a big race.

"Okay, so you remember Egghead's scheme to hold a race in a bunch of places and we all had to use that weird gear to do it?"

"You mean the cars...? With Zavok...?"

"No no not that, further back! The one with extreme gear."

"Vaguely, yes."

"Well, before that, he held another at Sand Ruins."

"Oh Chaos."

"Sh-shhhh! Just listen! It was this thing called the EX World Grand Prix, right? Its this big race held every year by extreme gear users to race and junk. Small EX competitions are on TV all the time-It's cool!"

Shadow leaned back into the chair and crossed his arms. The race had been decently exciting from what he remembered but he had not thought much of it. It was a scheme cooked up by the Doctor after all, and he had plenty of similar ideas after it. Plus the two of them could reach speeds higher than any extreme gear could.

Still, Sonic seemed to not only have an affinity for the sport as a whole but also kept tabs on it as well. It was unexpected but not surprising; the hero loved friendly competition after all.

"Alright," He replied giving a quick nod.

"so what does this mean for us?"

Sonic shrugged, a huge smile spread across his muzzle and barely able to contain his excitement.

"Wouldn't it be more fun to just go find out?"

 

"Did you boys make it there okay, hon?"

"Yes, I believe this is the place. Lots of...sand."

A light flirty chuckle sounded through the communicator before Rouge replied.

"Then I think it's safe to say you guys made it to the correct location. How is Big Blue?"

Shadow glanced up at the hyperactive hedgehog, zipping along the horizon in the distance. Large waves of sand flew up in all directions, the hero a simple blue line carving winding paths through the dunes. Sonic veered in Shadow's direction, a gust of wind ruffling black quills as he went by.

The dark hedgehog narrowed his eyes at the grains of sand spraying in his face.

"He's...pretty excited."

"Good to hear. You know...the Commander might be upset if he finds out you used GUN resources to schedule a drop off for yourself without his permission..."

He could picture the sly smile on the bat's face.

"What do you want?"

"What do I want? All I want is for you to have a good time, dear, really...but if you insist..."

"What."

"Don't worry about it now, just have fun with your little boyfriend ok? I'll see you real soon and we can talk properly. Bye~"

Shadow's stomach flipped at the word 'Boyfriend' but quickly tucked the thought to the furthest corner of his mind.

"See me soon? What do-"

"Byeeeeeeee~" Rouge drawled a little louder before hanging up abruptly.

He stared at the communicator, irritated. What was she up to? Why did he agree to it? He knew she would never actually rat him out to the Commander- even if she did Shadow wasn't afraid of him- and yet he still felt compelled to do whatever she asked simply because she asked.

Never let it be said that the bat was anything but persuasive.

"Hahahaha! Whooo, this is incredible!" Sonic shouted skidding to a stop in front of his rival. He ran a hand through windblown quills his emerald green eyes dilated and bright. The blue hedgehog's muzzle was dusted with sand, his body sweating profusely in the hot sun.

The ultimate life form smirked and casually brushed grains of sand from his face. Sonic's positive energy was contagious in more ways than one. His Chaos wavelength was wired and frazzled, but it didn't bother Shadow like before. He actually enjoyed the nice feeling it gave him, and it only grew with how close Sonic was standing.

"Mannnn it's like a giant sandbox! I can't believe I haven't been to the desert in ages. I mean Angel Island has one but its not this huge!"

"Why did you bring the jacket along with you?" Shadow asked gesturing to his waist. The pink varsity from before was tied around Sonic's middle due to the drastic change in temperature.

The hero shrugged, flashing a sheepish smile.

"I...have a lot of them in a bunch of different colors. Though I wanted to wear my pink one cuz well, you know. Amy."

"Oh. It's very sentimental of you. How cute."

"I'm not cute, I'm a gentleman." Sonic said putting a hand on his hip. He glanced around briefly seeing nothing but sand for miles.

"By the way uhh...you know how to get to Sand Ruins' coliseum right?"

Shadow blinked.

"Do you not?"

"Nah I haven't been here in ages, dude."

Shaking his head the ultimate life form tapped his wrist communicator. A green hologram appeared from the screen, depicting a tiny mini map.

"Just follow me then. The coliseum shouldn't be too far from our location. I don't know what we'll find there though."

"That's part of the excitement." Sonic said grabbing Shadow by the shoulders.

"Let's go man c'mon, I'll race ya!"

Shadow shrugged him off and walked further ahead of him, red eyes trained on the communicator. The blue hero's smile faded slightly at Shadow's lack of interest.

"Sonic our destination is fairly close as it is. Besides it's incredibly risky to race in the desert, the dunes are way too slippery. "

He shifted into a crouching stance.

"...So I suggest you watch your step."

Before he knew it Shadow was gone, a wave of sand and boot prints the only indication that the ultimate life form had been standing there a minute ago. Sonic coughed harshly, sputtering and shaking the sand out of his blue quills. Did he just...?

He squinted through the dust clouds at a single black dot far ahead, slowly disappearing over the horizon.

"Oh, you tricky son of a bitch!"

 

Amid the sandy wasteland an ancient coliseum stood tall, broken pillars and sections of of its outer structure lost to the winds of time. However the stands were alive with thousands of fans, filling the air with cheers of excitement. At the entrance various balloons were gathered on either side, a glorious banner hanging above them titled 'EX World Grand Prix Finals'. Sonic was overwhelmed at the sights and sounds of being at the Grand Prix again after so long, but he was excited all the same.

Well he would have been, if he wasn't too busy gasping for air.

He had beaten Shadow despite the dark hedgehog's wide lead but not without nearly killing himself in the process. When he was a kid he had no problem gaining on his rival and had energy to spare long after he won. All those chili dogs and sodas had to catch up at some point he supposed.

"Are you alright?" Shadow asked crouching beside him. Sonic took some comfort in seeing the ultimate life form was sweating and having trouble catching his breath as well.

"Y-yeah! I'm good. Hah, after all, I won~"

"Barely." Shadow reminded him. He looked sideways at the coliseum, noticing the large screens showing the racers on other parts of the track farther away in the ruins. It dawned on him that Amy must have planned for them to watch the entire Grand Prix from beginning to end. However due to her untimely death they were a few days behind schedule.

"Er...hedgehog-"

"Wait this is the Finals?" Sonic asked looking to the banner above the entrance.

"Yes. It seems that since we got a late start on our trip that we missed most of the Grand Prix."

"Damn and we don't have tickets either, so we'll have to watch the rest from outside the stadium on the screens!" Sonic sighed, kicking the sand in defeat. Shadow tilted his head as he eyed the ancient building. It seemed pretty stable in general...

"Not necessarily, we could have the best seats in the coliseum."

"What do you mean?"

The dark hedgehog tossed a green Chaos Emerald into Sonic's hands. The hero gave a sad smile, holding the gem out to his rival. Shadow touched it lightly but did not take it back.

"Shads, bro, we can't steal seats..."

"I didn't plan to." He replied pushing the Emerald back towards the blue hedgehog.

"The rim of the coliseum is fair game, correct?"

The sparkle that appeared Sonic's eyes was brighter than any Chaos Emerald in Shadow's opinion.

"Chaos Control!"

The two rivals appeared high above the stands, a clear view of not only the finish line in the center of the coliseum, but the race track was also visible farther away. Sonic was practically vibrating with excitement, his peach muzzle blushing with the faintest color of pink as he grinned. The lively Chaos energy that radiated from him started to become a constant thing that Shadow enjoyed immensely. Its fuzzy, curling warmth was no longer shocking but exhilarating, and the ultimate life form began to anticipate it every time his rival's mood sky rocketed.

"Shads this is incredible, I never got to see one of these so close!"

"Weren't you in a race like this? Three times?"

Sonic shrugged, not taking his eyes off of the screen for a moment.

"I mean yeah, but that's different. I love seeing people do what I love to do and enjoying it, using all their unique skills to be the best. Its hard to get that when I'm racing people because well, I'm the best of the best. I blow everyone I've ever raced against out of the water."

He smirked, waiting for Shadow to take the bait but the ultimate life form simply nodded in reply, seeming content with his answer. Suddenly being this high above the race was too quiet, the sounds of the crowd slightly muffled and blending into the background.

Sonic took this opportunity to feel out Shadow's energy, those same satisfied waves rolling back and forth like before. It seemed like a pretty good time as any to keep up their progress.

"Hey, we should take a picture while we're here, right?" He asked remembering Amy's request. Shadow sighed in irritation but turned to face the hero anyway as he prepared the phone camera. Sonic smiled and wrapped a tentative arm around his rival's shoulder, their cheeks brushing closely as they squeezed in for a selfie. Shadow couldn't find it in him to smile at the camera but the blue hedgehog didn't seem to mind, snapping a picture and smiling at the resulting photo regardless.

"You really do look good from every angle, Shads." He said softly.

Something in the air changed, but Shadow tried his best to keep his composure. A disinterested grunt was all he could manage, and prayed to whatever gods he could think of that the hero couldn't tell how warm that comment made him feel.

Unfortunately for him, the gods were busy.

Sonic noticed an immediate change in Shadow's wavelength; he was incredibly anxious to the point Sonic didn't even have to search for it as usual. It vibrated low and intense, tingling across Sonic's skin from how close they were sitting.

He decided to play innocent for the time being to save his rival from any embarrassment. Idly he sent the photo, the small chime breaking the silence between them.

"We should...take more pictures together don't you think?"

Shadow shook his head.

"I don't want images of myself to be on the internet. However, I made an exception for this trip."

"I wouldn't post them, dude I promise."

Green eyes gazed upward toward the clouded sky, a cellphone pressed delicately to peach lips to hide a coy smile.

"I'd want to keep your pictures for myself."

Shadow's breath caught in his throat.

"Oh! Oh! Here they come!" Sonic yelled suddenly, pointing to the racers making their way closer to the finish line. Far ahead of the other riders a lone green figure carried the lead, zooming in on a classic extreme gear hoverboard. They crossed the finish line with lightning speed as the audience went wild, a loud trumpet playing on the speakers thought the coliseum.

"Wait sec, that's Jet the Hawk!" The blue hero exclaimed as the winner's image flashed on the screens.

"Wow I had no idea he was in this race that's so cool, we should go say hi!"

The ultimate life form was barely paying attention, still trying to get his mind in working order after Sonic's topic change giving him emotional whiplash. Black ears flattened at the mention of the annoying bird, bringing him back to reality long enough to articulate a response.

"But why?"

"Because he won and I wanna congratulate 'em!" Sonic replied cheerfully. He grabbed Shadows arm and sped down the stands not waiting for a reply. The dark hedgehog didn't argue, head still in the clouds and unable to think of a proper reason not to.

Jet rested on a bench in a small dugout seated under the stands of the stadium with a few other riders who had crossed after him. Several security officers were standing by the resting area, but moved aside instantly seeing the two hedgehogs racing toward them. Either out of respect for the hero or fear of the ultimate life form, Shadow did not know.

"Jet! Hey what's up dude?" Sonic called casually.

The exhausted hawk whipped his head around at the familiar voice, blue eyes widening in surprise at the unexpected appearance of his old rival.

"Sonic is that you?!" Jet replied, standing and holding out his arms wide to the blue hero.

"God man, I haven't seen your ass in ages!"

Sonic chuckled and hugged the Babylonian tight, giving a hearty pat on the back before quickly recoiling with a wry smile.

"Dude gross you're sweaty as shit!"

"That's winner essence excuse you. You could use some of it, so be grateful haha. What are you doing here anyway, man?"

The blue hedgehog gestured to Shadow behind him leaned against the wall already seeming mildly annoyed.

"Shads and I are going on a Guy's Trip together and we came here to see the Grand Prix. We came a little late sadly."

"Shadow the hedgehog? I thought you guys hated each other."

"Funny, I thought you and Sonic hated each other as well." The ultimate life form replied dryly.

"Guys guys, please, I know I'm pretty but don't fight over me, I have room in my heart to hate you both."

Jet tilted his head slightly, a green hand sliding its way up Sonic's arm and massaging the lean bicep underneath.

"Pretty is right, look at you man you're stayin' in good shape these days..."

"Aah, you know, just running as usual." the hero replied bashfully. Shadow narrowed his eyes and stood up straight from the wall. Sonic's Chaos energy, normally warm and restless, suddenly became cold and still in the blink of an eye.

If the hedgehog had not been standing alive and well right in front of him, the ultimate life form would have though he died.

Jet released the peach arm gently, giving his former rival a mischievous wink. He pulled a small blue card out of his pocket and handed it to Sonic.

"I gotta go Blue, but here I want you guys to meet me at the Inn nearby in an hour once I get my medals and junk. We can hang out and catch up a bit. 'That cool?"

"Of course dude, absolutely."

"Greeeaaatttt. Welp, gotta jet!" The green hawk emphasized his joke with an aggressive slap on Sonic's rear, the action sending a sharp spike through the hero's wavelength and Shadow's fur stood on end. Jet chuckled and walked out of the dugout toward the center of the coliseum.

"Heheh..." Sonic chuckled lightly, though his eyes didn't quite match his smile.

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah why?"

"That slap on the ass was distasteful and obscene." Shadow growled.

"Dude guys do that all the time, a pat on the butt is a sports thing between bros."

"I'm well aware of that. What occured just now felt more appropriate between a pimp and a hooker."

Sonic shook his head and held his hands up dismissively putting on a tight lipped smile.

"You're overthinking it man, that's just how Jet is. He's rough around the edges and messes with people, and he was little shit when we were all younger but he's way different now. He's a cool guy."

The ultimate life form scoffed and turned away, already finished with the conversation. However his irritation subsided the moment Sonic's warm energy curled at the edges of his own once again.

"I don't like him." He said softly.

"You don't like a lot of people, dude."

"Well I don't like him twice as much as I normally don't like people."

Sonic hummed and leaned on his rival's stiff shoulder. Gloved fingers pinched the dark hedgehog's muzzle playfully.

"We'll stay for a few hours just to be nice and catch up, then we'll leave, okay Grumpelstiltskin?"

Shadow heaved a heavy sigh. The last thing he wanted was to stay in the hot desert and listen to that blowhard of a bird talk about himself the whole time. He also felt incredibly uncomfortable with Jet's forward nature toward the blue hero, having only seen him for two minutes and already being highly inappropriate.

And Sonic could lie as much as he wanted, but Shadow knew for a fact he was not comfortable with the hawk's actions.

As much as Shadow wanted to say no, he knew Sonic would do whatever he thought was right and unfortunately that meant staying and being friendly with his former rival.

"Very well if you insist, hedgehog," He said at last.

"But I'm watching his ass like a hawk."

Chapter Text

Sonic had to admit the desert was incredible in the evening.
The endless sky painted with swirling colors of pink and violet as warm orange clouds ghosted across the hazy sun. The once bright dunes were dark and mysterious, brown swirls of sand catching on the gentle breeze.

He and Shadow had found the inn Jet had mentioned in the village not far from Sandy Ruins ancient coliseum. The square sandstone buildings and arching bridges were simple yet beautiful, decorated with intricate carvings and colorful pots dotted throughout the area. Below him, Sonic was amazed at the endless sights and sounds of bustling nightlife filling the exotic city.

"It's so awesome, I can't believe I missed this last time I was here." He said leaning over the rooftop ledge.

The hero and his rival were told by the hotel staff to wait for Jet in the rooftop lounge area. small string lights and potted palm trees framed the area bathing the roof in a warm yellow light. white chairs sat next to a small wading pool on the far end and Sandwiches and wine were set up on a table for them shortly before they arrived. Sonic had commented the setup was 'pretty damn snazzy' but opted for watching the city below instead.

Shadow leaned on the edge beside the blue hero, red eyes gazing up at the dark violet sky. After staying in the bustling city for so long the dark hedgehog had nearly forgotten how beautiful the stars really were. Over the years Shadow had ignored them, feeling an unbearable loneliness if he lingered on the night sky for too long.

But with Sonic here, he somehow felt more secure underneath the stars than he ever had in a long time.

Blue quills shifted closer in the corner of Shadow's vision, the ultimate life form unconsciously holding his breath in anticipation.

"This is nice, isn't it?" Sonic said softly, leaning on his shoulder.

"I haven't been on a real adventure like this in ages...its like once I grew up I had less to do you know?"

Shadow turned his back on the stars and looked in Sonic's direction over the city. Soft torch lights and blinding colors blending together below.

"You could come on missions with me if you wanted. Working for GUN requires me to travel to various locations. It's not as exciting as chasing the Doctor or Chaos Emeralds but it should satisfy your boredom."

"Are you asking me on a date?"

"Do you you consider being covered in blood and gunpowder a date?"

Sonic smiled and nudged the dark hedgehog.

"I don't consider it one without them, dude."

Slowly a pained smile made its way on his peach muzzle. A sigh escaped the blue hedgehog as he drummed his fingers on the sandstone ledge.

"Heh...seriously though, as much as I wanna say yes to that offer I really can't."

Shadow's brows furrowed, genuinely surprised at Sonic's refusal.

"You would not be taking orders from GUN if that is what worries you; the commander has no desire to recruit you given how much collateral damage you seem to accumulate. He sees you more as a liability than an asset."

The hero chuckled and shook his head, emerald eyes reflecting the glossy shine of the string lights.

"Wow tell him I'm flattered. That's not the reason though. I can't just leave everyone alone right now after losing Amy. Normally I would throw caution to the wind but our friends need me. Now that one of us is suddenly gone, all the things we went through, all the risks we take seem more real than they've ever been before, if that makes sense."

Shadow nodded, red pupils trained on Sonic's face intently. He was worried this time the hero would break down, but he knew if Sonic did, he was more than ready to hold him up.

"After braving deadly situations together, you're all feeling the true weight of your mortality now that Amy has passed."

Sonic sighed and nodded wordlessly.

"I understand. However you're always welcome to see me anytime you need to as usual. My offer still stands if you ever feel like you want to go on another adventure."

The hero pressed against him gently, burning heat radiating down Shadow's side at the contact. He turned his head slightly, Sonic's muzzle grazing his own at the movement. Gloved fingers dug into the ledge at the tender feeling of peach lips gracing his cheek with a chaste kiss.

"Thank you. Shadow."

Electricity danced across their wavelengths, an endless loop of excitement and fear bouncing between them. Underneath it all a hint of arousal rose into the confusion, and Shadow couldn't tell where his emotions ended and Sonic's began.

The loud clank of the roof door cut through the comfortable moment between the hedgehogs.

"Glad you guys made it, sorry I took so long!"

Sonic turned quickly at the noise. Jet greeted him with a cheeky smile and a friendly salute. The green hawk sported a brown leather jacket, various logos patched onto the sleeves on either side. In his hands he carried a few empty wine glasses and settled himself in one of the white chairs, legs spread unnecessarily wide as he leaned back.

Shadow grimaced noticing Jet deliberately chose the middle chair.

"Nah man its cool, we were doin' just fine." The hero replied as he sat beside him, red shoes propped up casually on the table. As much as it bothered him to get closer to the Babylonian, Shadow didn't trust Jet's wandering hands. He nodded silently and eased himself into the empty seat.

"So why'd you guys choose to come all the way out here for a vacation?" The green hawk asked setting the glasses down. Shadow eyed his every movement, Jet leaning forward inching into Sonic's personal space.

"Last I heard all you guys settled down near Station Square. Mazuri is pretty far to go for a simple vacation especially a desert wasteland like this place."

"Well uh, we were kind of directed to come out here by surprise. You see it was Amy's idea and she planned to come along -"

"Wait that Rose girl sent y'all out here? Hah! She probably wanted a 'romantic' getaway with ya. I see you kicked her to the curb and brought someone else instead that's cold, Bro haha, how'd she take it?"

"She's dead." Shadow growled through clenched teeth.

Shadow knew Jet probably misunderstood the implications of his harsh reply, but it was still satisfying to see the feathered bastard's face turn pale in fear.

"U-uh--"

"Jet, no, dude, Amy had a medical condition." Sonic said quickly.

"She...passed a week ago. Shadow and I are going to all the locations she wrote down. The trip she planned was for the two of us." The hero gestured across the table to Shadow, and the ultimate life form felt a twinge of pride at the emphasis.

Something flashed in the Babylonian's blue eyes that Shadow immediately didn't like. However his only reaction to the news was a solemn nod. A green hand placed itself roughly on Sonic's thigh, patting it in what Shadow hoped was an attempt at comfort.

"I'm really sorry to hear that man, I had no idea. I've been so absorbed in the race and my career I probably missed all the news stations talking about it."

"It's okay, I'm not mad. I appreciate the sympathy though, dude." Sonic replied softly.

"Hey...I got an idea, Blue. Let's get wasted!"

"Beg pardon?" Shadow scoffed crossing his arms.

"Look, ya both seem like you need something to get your mind off things. Luckily, you're hangin' with a rich successful athlete who had ties all over Mazuri and money out the asshole. So...let's. Get. Wasted!"

Sonic shrugged and put his arms behind his head. The only person he really 'got wasted' with was Knuckles because he was incredibly fun to brawl with or talk to when he was loose. Though it didn't seem like a terrible idea, and Jet was trying to be a good friend. Plus getting a little buzzed would definitely help his mood.

"Alright man sure, we haven't seen each other in ages so I guess we should make the most of it."

"That's the spirit, man. And speaking of Spirits I've got some good shit in my hotel room if you wanna come down."

Shadow shook his head quickly at the suggestion.

"That doesn't sound like a wise idea."

"Oh Shads c'mon we're not gonna drink too much. Plus I'll admit im curious what you're like when drunk off your ass."

"That's not what I was referring to." He replied darkly.

"But if you insist on doing this, I will indulge you, hedgehog. However I can't get that intoxicated no matter how much I drink. My body eliminates toxins too quickly for me to get anything beyond a light buzz."

"Sounds like you won't be much fun then." Jet said giving the dark hedgehog an exaggerated eye roll.

Sonic smiled in Shadow's direction, secretly thankful his rival decided to tag along.

"Shads can keep an eye on us and make sure we don't trash the place though."

The green hawk held his hands up in exasperation but said nothing else about the matter. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone, nodding in approval.

"Cool just in time. Hey nerds," He said looking between the two hedgehogs.

"do you guys like swimming pools?"

 

 

Calling it a 'Swimming Pool' was barely enough to do the area any justice.

The place was enormous.

Beyond the village lay a rocky outcrop jutting out from between the wispy dunes. The locals recently discovered an oasis hidden in a small alcove and refined it, smoothing the inner sections and carving pillars from the stalactites. Murals of various gods decorated the walls and strange blue torches were perched in the corners of the cave. The flames reflected on the oasis' surface, bathing every wall in a blue glow and giving the illusion of being underwater.

Shadow had to admit, it was quite impressive.

Jet apparently had reserved the oasis for later in the night shortly after meeting the two hedgehogs at the coliseum. Why he reserved it so late in the evening was beyond Shadow's knowledge but if he had to guess, it was likely because they wouldn't be disturbed by anyone this late.

whether that was a smart or fatal decision was up to Jet himself.

Said Babylonian was cackling loudly as he relaxed in the shallow water, several bottles of alcohol around the edge of the pool. Although Shadow wasn't paying much attention to the conversation, he could hear every obnoxious noise falling out of his beak.

Sonic sat a little further away from him, telling Jet a joke as best as he could while under the influence but was having trouble putting it together.

Shadow watched from the edge on the far end, single beer in hand and checking his emails from GUN. Despite the two idiots laughing at their own drunken stupor, the ultimate life form actually felt pretty relaxed. Sonic seemed to be having a good time and that's all that really mattered.

"Shads...Shaaaadddsssss..." Sonic called, giggling.

"Yes?"

"Okay so...like, real talk, would I look good with chest fur? b'cause I'm swearin' up and down I would but Jet here's bein' an asshole 'bout it...!"

The blue hero leaned on the rim, emerald eyes unfocused but directed towards the dark hedgehog.

"I don't think you're man enough for chest fur, Faker." He said idly flipping through his phone.

"Aww...c'mon...really...?" Sonic asked, sounding genuinely disappointed. His pink tinted ears dropped a little at his rival's answer, muzzle sinking slightly into the water blowing sad little bubbles.

He was merely teasing the blue hedgehog as usual but he had forgotten that Sonic was not in the right state of mind at the moment. Although he would probably forget it in the morning, his flushed cheeks and pouty response were enough to make Shadow feel terrible about it.

"I-I'm joking, of course you are." He said, patting blue quills affectionately. Sonic smiled, seeming to be over his disappointment in an instant.

"You're great Shads y'know that?"

"Yes. Now go enjoy your time with your little friend because we're leaving in thirty minutes."

"Aw..." The hero replied and made his way back over to Jet's side.

Shadow put his phone down and leaned back onto the soft cool sand. After checking his emails and deciding to avoid the pool, the dark hedgehog was a little bored now. The alcohol was also making him a tad sleepy, dim light and the soothing scent of water causing him to drift away even more.

"Mn...nooo...dude..."

Black ears perked up instinctively at Sonic's stressed voice, their owner barely awake. Something spiked in the dark hedgehog's mind but he was too tired to make out his rival's intense emotion properly.

"Jus' a little..."

" M' serious man cut it out...you always do this s'not funny..."

"Why its jus' a kiss man...don' worry about it..."

Shadow was wide awake now.

He sat up quickly to find Sonic more or less caught between the smooth wall at the end of the pool and a very determined Jet pressing into his side. The hawk had his arm over the hero's shoulder, the other placed on his peach chest. Sonic clearly was trying to put as much distance between them as possible in his intoxicated state, but the Babylonian closed the gap each time until his beak brushed suggestively against his peach muzzle.

The ultimate life form wasn't entirely sure how or when he ended up pinning Jet face-down on the floor but he was enjoying every second of it. The green hawk tried to struggle but gained little traction, damp feathers getting caked in sand and making it even harder to move.

"What the hell man what're you doin' you emo piece a shit?!"

"Touch him again. I fucking dare you, and I will eviscerate your slimy ass..!" Shadow growled, raising a hand crackling with yellow chaos energy.

"Shads! Shadow cut it out!" Sonic yelled pulling the dark hedgehog's shoulder roughly. His strength was waning due to the alcohol but it was enough to get his attention.

"Lay off man, I-it's cool now! S'over!"

Reluctantly, Shadow dissipated the forming chaos spear. With one last shove into the sand he released the Babylonian and stood over him. Jet scrambled away and got to his feet, glaring at the ultimate life form.

" 'The fuck's your problem, man?!"

"Excuse you? You were trying to kiss him, and I believe he said 'No' multiple times."

"Fuck you I didn't mean it!"

"Oh bullshit. Pure bullshit!"

Sonic put a hand on Shadow's shoulder to get his attention again.

"Shads its not like that, Jet's jus' goofin' ...we're jus' really drunk is all...he ain't mean nothin' by it..."

"He's not."

Emerald eyes blinked slowly trying to register the statement through his intoxicated state.

"He...what?"

Shadow turned to the green hawk, eyes narrowed and lips curled in disgust.

"Your little 'friend' has been very careful about how much he's been drinking tonight, I could tell. He's only had about two drinks. At first I assumed he merely wanted to be well enough in the morning for whatever activities are happening after the Grand Prix, but I found it odd he would suggest 'getting wasted' if he wasn't going to indulge that much in it himself. However now I see why."

Sonic's eyes widened in realization.

"Jet are you fuckin' kiddin' me man..?!"

"Dude I didn't plan this I swear--"

Shadow shoved the Babylonian against the wall roughly, his wet body making a sickly slap on the cave walls.

"I'm getting really tired of all the lies coming out of your fucking beak. Maybe it'll stop if I break it."

"I swear! I didn't plan this!"

"But you knew Sonic was horribly drunk, correct? You coaxed him into this state, did you not?"

"Hey--!"

"Shut up!" Shadow growled shoving him further against the wall.

"You were taking a shot in the dark to see if you could get him to reciprocate while he wasn't sober. You're disgusting. You've been at this shit all day trying to make a move on him."

"Excuse me?? You're talking as if I'm the only one here guilty of that!"

Shadow's brows furrowed in confusion at Jet's statement. It was enough of a distraction for the hawk push him away and stand upright.

"Don't look at me like that, edgy boy you ain't foolin' nobody. I see the way you been lookin' at him too, I saw you snugglin' up ta him when I came on the roof."

He pointed accusingly at the dark hedgehog, gaining confidence quickly once he saw the uncertainty in Shadow's eyes.

"You been leerin' at me all day tryna keep me from movin in on him, but I was there when you weren't, and I bet that's why you even agreed to do this whole thing with him. 'Guy's Trip' my ass--!"

The force of the punch surprised Shadow more than anyone, honestly. Jet's body slumped against the wall at the impact, sliding down into sand as he lost consciousness. It was silent for a few heartbeats, both hedgehogs waiting to see if he would move.

"I...Is he dead?!" Sonic shrieked.

"Shouldn't be."

Shadow placed a finger on Jet's neck not too surprised to find that he, unfortunately, was still breathing and everything was still in one piece. The bird was lucky Shadow was slightly buzzed or else he might have left some real damage. The ultimate life form picked Jet up and threw him over his shoulder.

"Can you run back to the inn or do I need to use Chaos Control?"

" Mmm..'think I can run..."

"Good. We need to have a talk."

 

 

Shadow had left the unconscious Jet in his hotel room after inquiring with one of the workers as to where it was. When asked if the unconscious athlete on his shoulder was alright, Sonic quickly assured everyone that Jet merely was passed out after their drunk antics at the oasis.

Being the hero has its perks because no one asks follow up questions. Not even when you're drunk off your ass yourself.

Shadow decided to stay in a room for the night in the unit beside Jet's; It was the only room available given the Grand Prix, and the hawk requested the last two rooms at the end of the hall for himself. Apparently he didn't want anyone staying in a room beside him and keeping him up at night. The ultimate life form could not comprehend the level of entitlement such a request would require.

The room itself was pretty simplistic with sandstone walls, a single woven rug, and a vintage television sitting on the entertainment center. Exotic candles were left burning on the nightstands at both sides of the bed, and deep purple curtains covered the windows. It was calm, private, and right now that's exactly what they needed.

"Are we done yet?"

"No. Almost."

Sonic and Shadow were seated on the bed facing each other, Shadow holding on to the hero's hands in silence. The dark hedgehog had taken it upon himself to speed up the alcohol's circulation through Sonic's body with his own Chaos energy to sober him up. Slowly but surely, Sonic's inconsistent and sluggish wavelength returned to its regular intensity. Shadow let him go, eyeing the blue hedgehog for any sign of intoxication.

"I feel a lot better now man...thanks." Sonic said rolling his stiff shoulders.

"Why do you put up with that?"

"What do you mean?"

"Don't play dumb with me, faker. Why do you even let someone like Jet around you? You're not a damsel in distress and I'm more than sure you could kick his ass. Even he knew that. So why?"

Sonic shook his head slowly and looked away seeming unsure of how to answer.

"I didn't...see anything wrong at first you know?"

"Excuse me--?!"

"Well you and I do the same thing! We're super close you know? I didn't see anything wrong with it at first, I thought maybe it was just me but..."

Shadow's gaze hardened at the hero's reluctant expression.

"Is the hawk right about us? Am I doing the same thing as he is to you...?"

"Never! Of course not! I like when you and I do things, I just...! I didn't understand it back then."

"Back when?"

"When Jet and I use to hang out."

The hero sighed heavily and swung his legs over the edge of the bed.

"When we got rid of the last Eggman base four years ago...I got restless. I wanted to see you, maybe have some races or just brawl a little, like I do with Knuckles, but I had no idea how to contact you. I didn't even know if you wanted to talk to any of us because you stayed to yourself. But Jet and I kept in touch online and we would sometimes race extreme gear whenever he came into town."

"So that's what he meant by 'I was there when you weren't,'..." Shadow asked softly.

"Yeah...but then he started acting weird. Always touching me, suggesting things that I didn't want to do, or making jokes. But he would always say 'no homo' or 'you're too serious, I'm joking!' or something and I was always confused on if he was into me or just being an asshole.

I didn't want to accuse him of something if he actually didn't feel that way about me--we were friends after all. And a lot of the time he was a fun person to be around. But he didn't make me feel good about myself. He wasn't like you."

The ultimate life form felt heat rising into his cheeks at the implication.

'Sonic misses you too Shadow. He's always asking if Rouge mentioned you during our talks!'

'Sonic always claims it's because he's 'so bored and wants a good race' but I know what he means.'

Shadow had always assumed that Amy's remarks that day in the cake shop were simply the pink hedgehog's way of sweetening the truth, trying her hardest to convince him to visit more often. However hearing it straight from the hero himself shocked him more than anything.

Sonic really missed hanging out with him that much...?

"...If you felt this way about Jet, Why did you want to speak to him today and agree to hang out with him?"

"Well...when Amy finally got you and I to hang out again this year, I was so happy. We became so close and comfortable and...and we told each other everything. The three of us became a really awesome group, and I enjoyed that. I came to the conclusion that maybe Jet was trying to get to that level with me but just didn't know how to go about it.

So when I saw him today, I decided to say Hi because I feel...everyone deserves a second chance. I wanted to believe he just didn't know how to express himself but all that confusion and discomfort came rushing back. I was wrong."

The hero hung his head shamefully, running an ungloved hand through his messy quills in frustration.

"In a way, I feel guilty."

Shadow whipped his head around to stare at his rival, completely bewildered.

"How?"

"Because, I did to Jet what I did to Amy...someone liked me and I didn't like them back but I still talked to them--"

"Don't be a fool, hedgehog. You are not obligated to like someone who likes you, and its not like you took advantage of their feelings. Amy understood how you felt and never faulted you for it. If she had, I doubt the woman would have wanted to associate with you so closely.

Jet on the other hand, is manipulative and a scumbag. Any person who thinks manipulation is the way to get someone doesn't deserve anyone. Especially if you've made it clear you're not interested.

Also you're forgetting he tried to take advantage of you an hour ago, you Blue idiot."

Sonic stared at the floor, silent for a few moments head still bowed low. His energy had not changed much and gave the dark hedgehog very little indication what he was actually thinking. Shadow wondered briefly if anything he said had gotten through to the hedgehog until he heard an exasperated chuckle fall from his lips. Emerald eyes met Ruby, tired but warm and affectionate.

"Chaos Shads, when did you get so smart at these kinds of things...?"

The ultimate life form smirked, rubbing Sonic's back in slow circles.

"Well...I've always been close to very intelligent women all my life. Perhaps their wisdom has finally rubbed off on me." He stopped and removed his hand from the hero's back, cautiously.

"Are you sure you don't mind me touching you so intimately?"

"Dude why are you even asking? You were more than able to tell when I didn't like something because of our weird bond now. If I really didn't want you touching me you would know."

Shadow nodded slowly and put an arm around the hero's tense shoulders. Sonic leaned his head on Shadow's arm, the steady flow of the dark hedgehog's Chaos energy making him feel warm and content. For a few minutes the two rivals sat in silence exhausted but comfortable now that they were alone together.

"I'm kinda tired...should we head to bed?"

Shadow blinked slowly. He had almost missed Sonic's question, drifting off again. Damn, he really should get some sleep.

"There's only one bed though, you should take--!"

Sonic wrapped an arm around Shadow's chest and quickly pulled him backwards, the two laying side by side on the bed. The dark hedgehog stared up at the ceiling, completely caught off guard by the sudden action from the blue hero. His shock must have been evident, hearing Sonic chuckle shortly after.

"Screw that, we can share, Shads! If you're okay with that."

"That's...that's fine."

His heart jumped into his throat when Sonic's entire body loomed above him but the ultimate life form relaxed once he realized his rival was merely climbing over him to get to the head of the bed. Shadow was positive the hero could feel his Chaos energy doing backflips, but a gentle smile was Sonic's only response. He patted the space on the bed next to him, turning the sheets down.

"C'mon. Lay down, you look crappy."

"Gee, thanks." Shadow growled tiredly. He crawled in beside the blue hedgehog and turned off the light on the nightstand. Momentarily he thought about blowing out the candles but decided to let them burn, their soft golden glow illuminating Sonic's fur in the dark. He felt better being able to see that the hero was still beside him safe.

A sharp spike of anxiety radiating across their bond was the only warning Shadow had before a warm, gloveless hand found it way onto his. Sonic pulled himself closer to the ultimate life form hesitantly, his wavelength poking into Shadow's languid rhythm. He didn't understand what the hero was trying to do until it dawned on him that he was waiting for approval.

Sonic was utterly, truly an idiot. His affection was always welcome.

Shadow closed his eyes and tried to decide what a 'Yes' felt like, since they couldn't exactly read each other's minds. He settled on returning the blue hedgehog's gesture and prodding back in reply. Sonic sighed, relieved, and pressed against him, sliding an arm over Shadow's white chest fur. Their wavelengths mingled together sending a dull, comfortable heat tingling through his body.

"You don't have to ask, you know." Shadow said softly, putting an arm around the hero's waist.

"After today, I just want to know whatever moves I make you're okay with."

"If it wasn't I would have punched you."

"That seems to be your go-to huh?"

The ultimate life form didn't reply, turning his head to blow gently into a flushed blue ear. Sonic shuddered briefly at the gesture, giving Shadow's leg a light kick under the sheets.

"Go to sleep, jerk..." The hero mumbled. He began shifting upright, yellow candlelight bouncing off Sonic's silhouette as he moved. The dark hedgehog was curious as to what he was up to until gentle lips touched the underside of his muzzle, the softness a surprising but not unwelcomed gesture. He lingered for a few heartbeats, then laid his head on the dark hedgehog's shoulder.

"Goodnight, Shads."

Shadow closed his eyes, savoring the fleeting sensation as long as he could. It was unusual for the hero to be so tender, but as of late Sonic was showing a side of himself that the ultimate life form both anticipated and strangely feared at the same time. A part of him was thankful that he had turned off the lights, unable to hide the deep blush he was sure had turned his entire face red by now. Shadow breathed out slowly, letting the steady rhythm of Sonic's heartbeat and Chaos energy lull him to sleep.

"Goodnight."

Chapter Text

"What?"

Sonic blinked in confusion at the notebook page. This didn't make any sense...

"I don't understand...?"

"What's wrong?" Shadow asked stepping out of the hotel bathroom.

The two hedgehogs got up extremely early in the morning, both agreeing it would be best to leave before Jet or anyone else in Sand Ruins saw that they were still here. Shadow knew the citizens might plead for the hero to stay a little longer and Sonic was never one to disappoint the people. The ultimate life form was eager to leave and get his rival as far away from Jet as possible.

Shadow wanted to take a shower before they headed out, and Sonic decided to busy himself with checking out the next location while he waited. However the blue hedgehog wasn't making heads or tails of the clue given to him.

"I'm looking at the next page but it doesn't give us a location..." Sonic held the book out to him.

"Here look."

The dark hedgehog leaned over the notebook instead, not wanting to touch it while he was still wet. He tilted his head, curious as to why the next page did not give an obvious location like before.

There were two Tarot cards taped to the page this time. The first was labeled 'Three of Cups' had three women in beautiful robes standing together. As the card implied, each of the women had a chalice cup and were toasting in what seemed to be a celebration.

The next card was 'Nine of Pentacles' with the image of a woman standing in a luxurious garden. A white dove was gracefully perched on her outstretched hand. The woman was also surrounded by nine large gold coins, each decorated with a gold star. However this time, there was no writing below them with the location.

"Have you checked underneath?"

Sonic nodded and lifted the cards, Amy's handwriting hidden by both of them.

'Three of Cups; Celebrations, Parties, Togetherness, Happiness'

'Nine of Pentacles: Wealth, Abundance, Indulgence, Elegance, Luxury'

Below the definitions was written a simple code.

'555CROC'

"Hmm..."

"See? No idea what kind of location that's supposed to be." Sonic replied, drumming his fingers on the page anxiously.

Shadow shook his head and walked over to the nightstand. Wordlessly the ultimate life form picked up his phone, tapping rapidly on the small screen. He placed the device on the bed as it began to ring and turned on the speaker so they both could hear.

"Whoa Shads, how did you know that was a phone number?"

"I believe you are thinking too hard about this, hedgehog." Shadow replied with a hint of amusement in his voice.

"Amy would never give us something you couldn't--"

"It's about time you called! Damn I was getting worried!"

The dark hedgehog grimaced at the loud gravely voice shouting at them on speaker. There was something familiar about it, however...

Sonic leaned over the phone, staring at it intently with a glowing smile. He had almost forgotten about this guy it had been so long.

"Vector? Is that you! Man it's been ages!"

"Yeah its me, ya boy, Vector. Yadda yadda yadda, anyway how ya been?"

"Well we've been on a trip--"

"Nah, I know all that, you've been taggin' me in the posts online, remember? Where are you guys now is what I'm askin'."

Sonic's grin faltered a bit in confusion but he continued, picking up the phone from the bed.

"Oh, we're still in Mazuri but we'll be leaving soon. Its like uhhhh...5am here? We got up early. Why?"

There was a muffled shifting in the background and the distinct sound of keyboard taps somewhere even farther away. The hero could hear a deeper voice talking in the background but he couldn't make out anything significant beyond Vector's reply.

"You got that? All set up? Awesome, Babe."

"Babe, what--"

"Shit, not you, I was talkin to-- Never mind! Just--...your next stop is Casino Park! It's about 8pm here so you'll be right on time. Come to the biggest building in the city with a giant Emerald on the front. Ask for me. I'll hook you up."

"Uh...okay! Thanks man. we'll be there soon!"

"Good! See you then, kid."

Sonic nodded and tossed the phone to Shadow, suddenly eager to get going as quick as possible.

"This is great! I love that place man, we need to hurry!"

Shadow waited until he heard the crocodile hang up before speaking again. To the hero's surprised, his gaze hardened when their eyes met.

"Slow down. Are you absolutely sure about Vector? He isn't upset with you or trying to get into your metaphorical pants? Is there anything that you've done with him in my absence that I need to consider beforehand?"

"What? What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Sonic asked, an edge of irritation to his voice.

"I'm just asking because our first two stops had...problems. I want to make sure this is something I can prepare to handle should it be necessary."

"Handle? Necessary? What-- I'm not some kid, Shads. I can take care of things myself. I've saved the world how many times now?"

The ultimate life form sighed in frustration. He already had an idea of where this conversation would go if he wasn't careful, and the last thing he wanted was for them to start yelling and fighting each other. Normally, he would gladly speak his mind and let whatever happened happen. They would battle and let each other cool down a few days later.

But things were somewhat different now, and Shadow did not want this trip to be an unpleasant experience between them. He could feel Sonic's energy buzzing low and intense, almost waiting for the chance to strike at any moment. Their typical rival dynamic of saying harsh things and brawling out their emotions left an imprint on them both, and the blue hedgehog was ready for it.

"Sonic," Shadow said tightly. His tone causing blue ears to stand up alert, green eyes focused on his every move.

"The fact that you've saved the world and everyone knows who you are is both a fortunate and dangerous situation. I know you are more than capable of protecting yourself, but you are vulnerable when it is people you trust. I will always worry about you."

The hero's stance did not change, nor did the look in his eyes. He was waiting for something. For Shadow call him an idiot, to tell him he was incompetent or childish. However his rival merely sat on the bed, tapping on his phone idly. Sonic reached out to feel Shadow's Chaos energy for good measure. It spiked with frustration here and there at the blue hedgehog's intrusion but overall, still retained its normal rhythm. The ultimate life form had said what he needed to say and chose to avoid physical conflict, although his body itched to do so.

A wave of guilt washed over Sonic as he relaxed his stance. Shadow had no interest in fighting him. The blue hedgehog sat beside his rival, peach arms brushing against dark striped fur. He leaned forward into Shadow's view trying to get his attention.

"I get it," He said softly.

"I like that you're worried about me, and I appreciate it. But I swear there's no bad blood between me and Vector, so don't worry so much."

"If there is, I'm punching you. I'm punching everyone in that damn park."

"Even the children?"

"Especially the children."

Sonic chuckled and hugged Shadow from the side, kissing a fawn cheek affectionately. The dark hedgehog didn't react, but he could tell Shadow appreciated it from the rush of excitement he felt bouncing off their bond.

"I'm gonna go grab a snack from the dinning hall, you want anything?"

"It's closed isn't it?"

"They have a bunch of snacks, drinks and frozen junk but no hot food until like 8am. I'll grab you a coffee, and...maybe a donut?"

Shadow nodded letting out a relaxed sigh. He had used every ounce of willpower just to avoid tackling the blue idiot; he deserved a treat.

"Yes, that sounds good. Thank you."

"Cool, be back in a flash."

Sonic gave him a flirtatious wink before heading out the door, savoring the smirk it brought to the ultimate life form's face. He shut the room door lightly not wanting to break the peaceful silence in the narrow hallway and alert anyone. Sonic wasn't sure where the dinning hall was exactly, but spotted a cleaning maid pass by the hall entrance. She would definitely know.

"So you're leavin'?"

The hero froze.

'Shit.'

Sonic turned slowly, eyes trained on the green Babylonian behind him. He was completely bare, aside from a hotel towel draped over his shoulder. Sonic noticed that Jet's eye was bruised, dark green feathers fading to a slight purple under the skin.

"I'm going to the dinning hall. Alone." He emphasized.

"But you're gonna leave after that aren't you? With him." Jet nodded his head towards their room door, blue eyes narrowed in disgust.

"Is he your boyfriend?"

"Chaos, man, you picked a crappy time to ask that after you've already tried shit."

"So that's a yes?"

"That's a 'none of your business'."

The green hawk sneered. He threw the towel on the floor lazily, staring at it for a moment before he replied.

"So he is then. Wow, that's some bullshit right there."

"I don't have time for this."

"And yet, here we are, talkin' about it. I don't get what you see in him dude, you'd be better off with me if you ever stopped teasin' and just gave me a fucking chance."

The Babylonian stiffed seeing Sonic's quills suddenly rise in defense. As the hedgehog made his way closer to him, Jet backed up slowly and put a hand on the door to his room. A brief image of the hero spin-dashing flashed in his mind, and he realized with dread that a simple wooden door would not save him.

"A 'tease'? Do you even hear yourself right now?" Sonic said darkly, green eyes radiating an intensity that chilled the hawk to his bones. He flinched backwards, a finger pointed accusingly to his sharp beak.

"Man, I gave you tons of chances, and you abused every one of them!" Sonic hissed through gritted teeth.

He could hit him.

He could hit him and nobody would stop him.

That wired intensity from his conversation with Shadow was creeping its way back into his body and he was ready to use it. A gloved hand curled slowly into a fist out of Jet's line of sight. The hawk wouldn't be able to move fast enough to avoid it if he did it now...

Sonic sighed and shook his head slowly.

He couldn't.

It wouldn't be a fair fight in the slightest and as much as Jet deserved it, Sonic was a hero, not a bully.

"I thought we were friends. Clearly we aren't, but you know what we are? Done."

Giving Jet a final harsh glare the hedgehog backed off, disappearing in a flash of blue down the dim hallway.

 

The dining area was a large auditorium with a stage at the far end, its deep purple curtains drawn back in preparation for the morning Grand Prix announcements. The stage was surrounded by several round sandstone tables, each with a small stained glass lamp matching the intricate chandelier above the room. The dining hall was empty, save for a few employees cleaning the round tables before breakfast in a few hours.

Sonic sat at the very back table surrounded by vending machine snacks and a half eaten sandwich. He took a small sip of coffee, aimlessly scrolling through his social feed on his phone. The hero eventually got the nerve to head to his friends list, and went through the arduous task of blocking and deleting '2FASTJetStreamEXPro'.

'God,' He thought to himself. 'what a douchy username'.

Making friends came naturally to the blue hedgehog, but cutting them off was something he never had to do before. Sonic had friends disappear or leave on their own terms, but having to end a friendship himself was a sick feeling. However the fact Jet didn't treat him like an equal and tried to manipulate him, sent an even more nauseating feeling through his chest.

"I believe that's mine."

Sonic glanced up, surprised to see Shadow standing over him. The hero had completely forgotten he was supposed to come back to the room afterwards. The dark hedgehog glanced at the coffee in Sonic's hand and gently took it away from him, tossing back the last bit.

"Hm. There wasn't much left..."

"Sorry, here. I asked one of the workers to just give me a whole pot." Sonic gestured to the silver coffee carafe on the table amid a sea of vending snacks.

"...Is something troubling you?" Shadow asked taking a chair beside the blue hero. Sonic shook his head and grabbed the carafe, pouring hot coffee into the his rival's cup. Shadow nodded as a silent thanks and reached into the snack pile for a donut. He would lecture Sonic about stress eating another time.

"I ran into Jet in the hall. Or I guess he was waiting for me?" A sharp twinge of anger flashed through Shadow's Chaos energy but Sonic ignored it and continued.

"He didn't try anything but I had to let him know I was done with him. For good. It's just hard letting longtime friends go...especially when you have to be the one to do it."

"Do you regret it?"

"Nah," Sonic replied taking another bite of his sandwich. He reached over and grabbed Shadow's coffee gulping down nearly half of it. The ultimate life form said nothing and took the cup back, filling it again with the carafe.

"It sucks, but I know it's for the best. Also...thank you for helping me last night, really. I don't know what would have happened if--"

"Don't mention it. Please." Shadow interrupted, raising a hand pleadingly.

"If I think about what might have happened I'll have to go back and murder the damn bird just to get peace of mind."

"Okay. Well, still thanks." Sonic replied taking a bite out of Shadow's donut. The dark hedgehog sucked his teeth and snatched the pastry out of his hand.

"You have at least ten bags of snacks on the table and a sandwich, and yet you keep taking my food. Are you just doing this on purpose now?"

"No way...now gimme your coffee."

"Unbelievable. Here."

 

It was Extraordinary.

It was Breathtaking.

It was...Chaos, had he really been breezing through this so much when he was a kid?

Sonic leaned intently on the glass of the dark limousine, taking in the dazzling lights of Casino Park and trying his hardest not to scream his head off in excitement.

The hero offered to Chaos Control both of them straight to the location himself but Shadow decided against it, opting to take the 'scenic route' and teleport them a few miles just outside the city. The dark hedgehog said he arranged a pickup there once they arrived while waiting for Sonic back in the hotel room. When he asked if using more GUN resources would get him into trouble, Shadow merely shrugged, a knowing smirk briefly flashing on his fawn muzzle.

"It will be worth it."

Sonic couldn't agree more.

Bright shapes and flashing neon lights exploded across his vision, the nightlife spectacle reflecting in starry emerald eyes. The blue hedgehog could barely hold himself together, jumping from window to window in the limo to take in everything as it went by; Eye catching signs filled with bright letters and glowing images, city streets lined with rainbow neon streaks, tunnels coming alive with light as cars whizzed by, stars and colors blending together in a never ending fever dream, bringing back old memories Sonic had long forgotten spurring back to life.

"Enjoying yourself?"

The hero blinked rapidly, trying to process the voice addressing him. It took a minute for him to register Shadow was speaking, let alone the question he had asked.

"Chaos, Shads...this is...we've been here before right? I mean I remember it being cool and beautiful but was it always so...epic?"

"A few new buildings and such have been added. I've been here once or twice for a few missions. However it still looks relatively the same as it did when we were young." Shadow replied tilting his head thoughtfully.

"Though we didn't have time to savor everything I suppose." He leaned back into the seats, finishing off the remaining scotch and tucking the glass into the mini bar beside him.

The Commander wouldn't be too pleased knowing the ultimate life form abused his power and took his private limo, but that was the last thing on Shadow's mind right now.

Sonic was practically a perfect storm of chaos energy, the tingling sensation going through the dark hedgehog's body in constant waves. Shadow was relaxed and savored every one of them, the feeling becoming almost intoxicating as it soothed and caressed his muscles. Having a glass of scotch was more or less just to occupy himself as his rival enjoyed the ride; Sonic's energy was giving Shadow a comfortable buzz and putting every alcohol in the world to shame.

"Man, and I thought Casinopolis was incredible!"

"Mmm...I knew you would enjoy taking the long way here."

Sonic laughed breathlessly, his cheeks flushed pink and green eyes shimmering in the city lights. He leaned back beside Shadow and stared at the blurring colors through the limo sunroof. Now that he was calm, Sonic could feel the intense tingle of their bond radiating through his skin. The sudden euphoric feeling causing a short pleased gasp to escape his lips. Black ears perked at the noise but Shadow said nothing and closed his eyes, trying to ignore the thoughts going through his mind at the soft sound.

"This feels good..." The hero piped up, reaching for Shadow's hand. He wanted to touch the ultimate life form, feel something tangible amid the low burn of their wavelength. Wordlessly Shadow returned the favor, grasping a gloved hand and giving a reassuring squeeze. The contact relaxing Sonic's frazzled nerves, bringing his mind back down to Mobius.

"Ohhh~ hand-holding huh? How saucy."

Shadow stiffened and sat upright, recognizing that sultry voice anywhere.

Teal eyes met red as the dark hedgehog stared into the driver's window, the divider rolled down to reveal a familiar white bat at the wheel. Hot pink lips curved in a sharp grin, looking far too delighted for Shadow's liking.

"Rouge! Girl, I had no idea you were driving! So...how you doin?" Sonic smiled, giving the woman a flirtatious wink.

"Careful Blue, wouldn't want to upset Mr. No-Fun over here." She replied, pointing to the very confused and irritated dark hedgehog beside him.

"What are you doing here?"

"What am I doing here? Honey, what do you mean? I work here."

Black brows furrowed. Shadow was even more confused than before and twice as irritated.

"Hey, we stopped!" Sonic exclaimed looking out the window at their location and letting out an amazed whistle.

"Damn girl, is this yours? You're doing pretty well for yourself!"

Shadow stepped out the limousine quickly, eyes following Sonic's gaze across the street. Purple and pink lights glowed softly, illuminating the front of a large dark building. High above the street a bright purple heart could be seen, framing the words 'Club Rouge' in neon pink cursive letters. judging from the lack of music and customers, Shadow assumed it was closed.

Rouge stepped out of the limo fumbling with a set of keys as she ambled her way toward the building.

"Aw, you like it, Blue? I decided to move my main club location out here. I have a few clubs besides the one in Night Babylon, including one in Casinopolis. I visit that one often since its close to home so hit me up if you ever get...lonely." She punctuated the end of her sentence with a suggestive look over her shoulder at the hero, Sonic giving enthusiastic finger guns in reply.

"Heh, maybe I will. 'Give you the ol' heroic welcome while I'm at it..."

"Stop." Shadow growled rolling his eyes. He shouldered Sonic roughly, walking past the both of them to the club entrance. The hero gave a nervous chuckle, anxiety rippling through his fur at the thought of making his rival more upset than usual.

"Oh, Shadow, don't be such a stick in the mud!" Rouge giggled throwing an arm over her colleague's shoulder. She leaned in close, catching Shadow off guard and giving him a stern glare.

"I know Big Blue only has eyes for you, we're just playing around. Don't ruin this for yourself."

"What--"

"Anyway! Come on in, make yourselves at home." She said loudly, unlocking the front doors to the club. Sonic stepped in after her, eyes roaming the dark walls, purple booths, and sparkling sheer curtains hanging from the glass roof.

His eyes settled on an unusual design in the floor, smooth wine colored marble changing to an unusual black tile in the center of the room. Curious, the blue hedgehog stepped onto it, the tiles changing to bright neon pink and giving out a synthesized tone.

"Whoa! You have a light up dance floor in this place?"

"Of course, this is a club after all. The tiles all make different notes and colors when you step on them." Rouge replied making her way behind the bar.

"The music isn't working right now and the DJ left hours ago but knock yourself out, hon."

The hero nodded and busied himself with the tiles, playing what Shadow assumed was a poor attempt at 'Hot Crossed Buns'. Still, Sonic's giddy smile and positive energy were enough to sooth his crabby mood, the dark hedgehog easing himself into the lush leather booths against the wall. Rouge appeared beside him silently, sliding a pair Martinis onto the table.

"Thank you," Shadow said dryly stirring his drink.

"So, why exactly did you bring us here?"

"Well, you asked for a ride and I graciously offered to be the driver. Wouldn't want anyone to know about you using your boss' private property now would you?"

"That doesn't answer my question." He popped the olive into his mouth casually, savoring the salty taste before he continued.

"You want that favor now, don't you?"

Rouge chuckled softly, fawn arms crossing over her large chest.

"Oh, you can read me like a book, can't you? I promise you though, its a small favor, nothing too big. I want you to take me to the casino with you."

Shadow blinked in confusion at her request and gave the white bat an accusatory glare. Vector had not told them what kind of establishment the building they were going to was, yet Rouge knew enough to ask to tag along with them.

"How did you know we were going to a casino, specifically? Did you tap my cellphone? Again?"

"Didn't have to. Sonic's profile page has Vector tagged with your little couples pictures, and he's stationed here in Casino Park. So, I put two and two together and figured you were paying him a visit."

"Why do you need me to take you inside?"

Rouge sighed dramatically and knocked back her Martini, a slight pout her lush pink lips when she finished.

"Because I'm not allowed in! Can you believe that? All those thrills and fun and this poor gal can't indulge in any of it. Vector won't let me in anymore because he claims I'm 'trouble' or some nonsense like that. I've tried sneaking in multiple times but that Ninja boy is always on his guard. I know Espio probably wouldn't seriously hurt me, but it's still annoying dealing with him, and being thrown out so many times on top of it."

Shadow shrugged, still confused as to why she needed his help.

"Have you tried that other thing you're good at? You know, with the breasts and everything." he asked gesturing vaguely in her direction. The woman shook her head, biting on the toothpick left from her Martini.

"Doesn't work on them any more than it works on you."

"Loosing your touch?" The ultimate life form asked with a smirk.

"Hardly. Though I figured out pretty quickly I wasn't their type. However, I know Vector would let me in if I was with you and Blue; I don't know why but he sees you two as 'responsible' and 'trustworthy' or whatever." She replied, emphasizing her words with sarcastic air quotes.

"Hm. I don't know..."

"Aw c'mon, Shadow. I promise I'll be on my best behavior. Ah! and I also have some gifts that I think you'll enjoy." Rouge reached under the table and pulled out two large flat gift boxes, each pure white and adorned with purple bows.

"Consider it a friendly gesture. Or a bribe. Whichever you prefer."

"You really want to get into this building don't you? Any particular reason I should know about?"

A cheshire grin graced her fawn muzzle.

"Do you really wanna know?"

"Not with that look on your face I don't."

"Good then lets go! Go on, get dressed now."

Shadow quirked a brow, giving himself a quick once-over before looking back at the white bat. She seemed incredibly eager, gazing expectantly at the dark hedgehog.

"What do you mean dressed?"

 

"Come on now! Come out let me see!"

"Hold on, hold on."

Rouge tapped a violet heel impatiently, completely appalled at how two men were taking longer than her to get dressed. She decided to keep it simple in a lovely purple gown, a pair of diamond earrings and matching gloves bringing the entire outfit together. She glanced in the full length mirror, admiring her figure and pushing up her bosom for good measure.

"Okay I'm done." Shadow called out, knocking once on the door to the dressing room.

"Great! stay in there. Are you done, Blue?"

"Uh...almost? I can't...tie this tie!"

"Come on out Faker, I'll help you."

Shadow opened the door and walked out, eyes widening at the hero in from him.

Sonic was wearing a fine black suit, the perfect cut accentuating his lithe form and slender legs. Around his neck was a satin red tie, a deep crimson rose pinned to the lapel of the jacket.

The blue hedgehog himself was captivated at once when he saw Shadow, the ultimate life form wearing an identical suit in a deep azure blue. The satin tie and rose clip matched each other in a brilliant shade of green.

"You look good in blue." Sonic said softly, running a hand delicately over his rival's shoulder. Shadow nodded and pushed it away gently, needing room to tie the red tie still draped over the blue hedgehog's neck.

"As do you, in black. I never thought I'd see you in a suit. Hold still."

"You've seen me in a suit like a week ago, dude."

"That shabby grey rental you had for the funeral? Hardly a suit. Plus you ruined it. There," Shadow said straighting the tie into place.

"Perfect."

"Well thank you, I try to be.~"

Rouge clapped her hands together, eyeing the two hedgehogs with a satisfied smirk.

"Oh don't you two just look darling!"

Sonic whistled giving Rouge's elegant gown a quick glance.

"You clean up pretty nice yourself, girl. You might actually put us to shame."

The bat chuckled, waving bashfully at his comment.

"Oh stop, Blue, you charmer. Actually I could be a show-stopper if I wanted to, but I went for the simple for today and splurged on you boys. I picked these suits out, but I'm impressed at how well you match. just like the perfect couple!"

Black ears straightened at the word 'couple' quickly realizing the intent behind Rouge's gift; His suit matched Sonic's eyes and fur, and the blue hero matched his as well. The ultimate life form wanted to chew the woman out for having them dress in such a manner and the implications it would have when they were going in the public eye.

However the words dried up in his mouth at the thought of the word 'couple' once again.

Was that really a bad thing?

A fawn arm snaked its way around Shadow's as Rouge caught his attention, her other arm already hooked into Sonic's as well.

"Don't we look dapper and ready to party?" Sonic said chuckling at the three of them in the mirror, all dressed for an eventful night on the town in Casino Park.

The white bat nodded and gave the heroes a friendly nudge toward the door. Her heels clicked urgently on the floor as she walked a little faster than normal, more or less dragging the hedgehogs with her.

"Well, what are we waiting for? Let's dance, Boys!"

Chapter Text

"Sonic the hedgehog! Long time no see!"

"Hey, nice to see you after such a long time man!" Sonic replied with a friendly wave.

The hero stepped out of the limousine quickly, eager to give proper greeting to the large crocodile waiting in the front entrance. Vector leaned against the frame of the doors, donned in a purple striped suit. He put out his cigar on the door frame, snickering as he watched Sonic stumble on his way out the car. He decided to walk over and meet him halfway.

"Easy there, Tiger, the casino ain't goin' anywhere." He replied steading the blue hedgehog, placing a large hand on his chest.

"I know, I know, I'm just excited." Sonic replied eagerly, eyes gazing upwards to the large tower in front of him.

The casino was enormous, dwarfing all of its nearby competitors immensely. It was the largest tower in all of Casino Park, every inch of it covered in millions of gold and green lights. At the very top sat a colorful neon sign depicting a familiar green gem in a pile of treasure, the words 'The Master Emerald' just below it in bold golden letters.

"Hello," Shadow said evenly stepping up just behind the blue hero. He placed a hand possessively on Sonic's shoulder, red pupils boring into Vector's brown the moment they made eye contact.

"It's a pleasure to see you again, Vector." He said calmly.

The crocodile's gaze flickered between the two hedgehogs, momentarily confused by the tension radiating from Shadow's presence. Realization flashed briefly on Vector's face, his broad muzzle curving into a toothy smirk.

"Nice to see ya too, Stripes." He replied, slowly removing his hand from Sonic's chest.

Suddenly Amy's request was starting to make sense now.

"So...you two are-- oh, hell no!" The crocodile yelled, seeing an all too familiar figure slide out of the driver's side of the limousine. Purple hips swayed as Rouge made her way beside Sonic, snaking her delicate fingers around his arm.

"Hello Vector dear, how's life treating you?"

"You can't be here! She can't be here." He said quickly to the blue hedgehog.

"Relax Vector, I promise we'll keep an eye on her she's a guest!" Sonic nudged the white bat prompting her to reply.

"Of course, of course, I have the hero of Mobius watching over me, as well as GUN's top agent don't I? How could I possibly act up while they're here?"

The detective narrowed his eyes and stared at the trio for a moment. Eventually he caved, sucking his teeth in irritation.

"Fine. But you better not try anything. I'm warning you, I got a lot riding on this gig you know?"

"Yes, yes, now let us in!"

Vector turned and opened the door giving one last wary glance over his shoulder. Rouge pushed her way in between the two hedgehogs and dragged them in after her, desperately racing inside before he changed his mind.

"Ow! Woman, slow down, Chaos!" Shadow growled yanking his hand away from her iron grip. She ignored it and turned on her heel standing in front of them with her arms spread wide. Teal gaze sparked with anticipation as she presented the spectacle before them.

High ceilings lined with gold lights decorated the scene, their glow reflecting off dazzling chandeliers hanging in the center. Slot machines, pool tables, and other colorful chance games lined against the walls, each of them beckoning anyone nearby to take the plunge. High class citizens, mobians and humans alike crowded the space, their laughs and cheers mingling with the endless beeps and rings of lottery games. Luxurious chao statues made of gold and marble stood around the centerpiece in the lobby; a massive decorative replica of the Master Emerald underneath a glass ceiling and glowing intensely under the reflected light.

"Welcome boys, to 'The Master Emerald!' "

Sonic's grin was wider than before, eyes roaming the area trying to take it all in. The blue hedgehog practically vibrated with excitement and an overwhelming feeling to explore the casino.

"Wow Rouge I totally get why you wanted to come in here this place is high class for sure!"

Shadow narrowed his eyes at the showy upper class customers clothed in expensive jewels flaunting their wealth. He noticed the various bills and casino chips left casually around on the floor.

"I have a feeling that's not the main reason you wanted to be here so badly. Easy pickings."

"Ah, true, but I promised to be good today didn't I? No pickpocketing from innocent rick folks today."

"Good, keep it that way." Vector growled.

"I don't need you screwing anything up while you're here. Now..." He checked his watch momentarily, giving a quick nod before walking down the lobby toward the elevators.

"You guys have the VIP section, so lets get you up there eh?"

"VIP? What's 'VIP' about it?" The hero asked following close behind.

"Famous folks, the good buffet, the best slot machines, pretty much everything."

"Sweet! You know, I've never really gambled before..."

"What?!" Rouge exclaimed, putting a hand to her lips in astonishment.

"Blue, you really haven't lived until you tried! Have you never wanted to play?"

"Well a little bit? But mostly its because I haven't had too much of an interest. Or money to waste."

The white bat pulled Shadow in close, pinching a fawn cheek teasingly.

"Well, luckily you have a rich boyfriend who has tons of money to waste, and wants to see you happy right? Don't you Shadow?" She cooed. The dark hedgehog smacked her hand away lightly, grumbling to himself as a light blush dusted his muzzle.

'There she goes throwing around that word again...'

Sonic smiled sheepishly, feeling his rival's energy spike at Rouge's suggestion. He assumed Shadow's irritation was due to her urging the ultimate life form to spend more money on his rival than he wanted to. Plus, if the hero was honest with himself, he had grown a little too comfortable with the dark hedgehog spending money on him whenever they went places together.

"We don't need to gamble to have fun, it's no big deal, Shads." Sonic said holding hands up pleadingly.

"Like I said, I'm not all that interested."

"No, Its fine. I have it covered and money is no issue. That's not what I was--"

"Hey! Come on let's go!" Vector shouted, a large hand holding the elevator doors open.

"You can have your lover's quarrel later, my boss wants y'all up here!"

Shadow glanced at the hero quickly, blue ears and peach muzzle just as flushed as his own. A spike of unease looped between their bond momentarily, though the dark hedgehog was unsure of who it came from first. Sonic gave a nervous glance and sped toward the elevator as quick as possible, leaving the GUN agents to follow slowly behind him. Rouge gave a slight pout at Sonic's reaction, seeming disappointed.

"Aw, he was so nervous..."

"Gee, I wonder why."

Shadow was well aware something was going on between himself and the blue hedgehog; it didn't take a rocket scientist to notice how comfortable they were with each other. However, as usual, people seem to meddle in his affairs and make things worse. Whatever this was, the ultimate life form was deeply worried Sonic would be frightened off by the peanut gallery before anything even began. A part of him wanted to be done with their adventure as quick as possible. The idea of the two of them back in the seclusion of his apartment and exploring these feelings was something he was craving more and more by the second.

 

The VIP floor was much simpler than the rest of the casino, yet somehow felt much more luxurious. Soft white lights were mounted on black pinstripe walls, a lovely diamond chandelier hanging above the dimly lit room. Low Jazz music played somewhere far off in one of the many halls, each of them sectioned off by silken black curtains. Sonic peeked behind one of them and spotted a polar bear and woodpecker playing pool. In the main hall was an open bar followed by lush black couches spread out across the area. A few VIPs were smoking cigars, the thick smoke wafting through the air and giving the whole floor an ominous haze.

"This seems...unusual." Shadow said softly, giving the crocodile a wary glance.

"And now that I think about it Vector, you told us to 'ask for you' over the phone and yet you met us at the door. Why is that?"

Vector was already looking his way, broad green head shaking slowly.

"I know what you're thinking, Stripes, but don't worry about it I'm not trying anything. Just follow me." He led the trio toward the back area where most of the cigar smoke seemed to be coming from.

On the back couch sat a purple weasel dressed in a dark brown suit and cowboy hat. A cigar twirled idly in his hand as he spoke in a low raspy voice. VIP guests sat crowded around him, completely enthralled and hanging on his every word. The weasel looked up briefly from his conversation with his group toward Vector, until his deep blue eyes settled on an even bluer hedgehog.

"Yo, Fang, just lettin' you know Sonic and his party arrived." The crocodile said politely, giving a quick bow to the weasel.

"Thanks. Nice to see ya, Hero. Get 'em set up with some drinks would ya? Then take them to the slots if they want." Fang flashed a toothy grin at the two hedgehogs, a greedy look in his eye.

"After all, havin' the famous Sonic the Hedgehog and Shadow the Hedgehog here will definitely get people talkin' about 'The Master Emerald' a lot more. So please, enjoy yourselves. If you need anything, just ask Vector here and his pals. Or, ask for Bean or Bark. They'll know who you mean."

He tipped his hat to them then continued his conversation, ignoring the group entirely as if they weren't there.

"Rude. Didn't even acknowledge this lovely lady right in front of him..." Rouge grumbled crossing her arms. Vector shrugged and motioned for the three to follow him behind a silk curtain, wanting to get away from Fang as quick as possible before he spoke.

Behind the curtain was a simple lounge area with a black couch and blue lights, followed by a small table with cheese and Merlot. The detective prompted them to sit, Sonic narrowing his eyes toward curtains in confusion.

"That Fang guy...he seems familiar." He said tapping his foot thoughtfully.

"And not in a good way."

"I know," Vector piped up, pouring himself a glass of wine.

"He's Fang the Sniper. A.K.A Nick the Weasel...slash wolf...thing. I dunno. He's a hybrid I guess. Point is, he's bad news, I'm sure you remember his thieving ass from when he was just a treasure hunter."

"Why are you working for a bad dude and his cronies?"

"Are you kidding? Fang is basically a Top Dog in the underground of Casino Park right now, Blue. Team Chaotix is cracking down on all sorts of bad dudes that come here just to get in good with celebs and Fang himself. Why sell the cow when you can milk it for all its worth? I couldn't let him know a hero like you knew me personally by asking for me though. So I had to act like you had a reservation here and met you outside."

Suddenly the silk curtains flew open and Vector flinched, Shadow and Rouge already in a defensive stance. Sonic was nearly balled up in a spin dash, quickly straightening once he saw the intruders.

"Did we come at a bad time...?"

A short purple chameleon in an indigo suit stood rigidly, one hand in his pocket half reaching for a Kunai. Beside him a young bee child in an identical suit held the curtains open, wide eyed and confused.

"Ah, Es, babe! Charmy! you scared the shit out of us! heck probably as much as we scared you!" Vector chuckled loudly and slapped his knee.

Shadow grimaced, hardly amused by the fact that they almost killed each other. He eased back into the couch beside the blue hero and crossed his arms. Sonic stood up quickly making his way over to them.

"Be careful next time, dudes we could've killed ya!" he smiled at Charmy, holding out his arms for a hug.

"I haven't seen you in ages though lil' man how old are ya?"

"Little? I'm 14, Sonic cmon, I'm basically a man now!" the bee replied returning the hug heartily.

"I got a job way before you did at my age anyway."

Rouge's eyes widened, quickly turning in Espio's direction.

"You're letting a child work here? I can understand Vector doing it, He's irresponsible as hell--"

"Hey, watch it!"

"But Espio, surely you know a casino is no place for a kid?"

The chameleon shrugged, seeming confused by the bat's question.

"We all were quite young when we began fighting side by side to protect the world, Charmy included. On the contrary, a casino is the perfect place for him and far less dangerous--"

"And I get a taser!"

"...and we gave him a taser." He finished dryly. Yellow eyes drifted from Rouge to Shadow looking him over, head inclined slightly in curiosity.

"What?" Shadow growled.

"It's nothing." Espio replied idly adjusting his cuffs. His lips quirked up slightly in a thin smile.

"I just...never took you as a 'Blue' person."

Black ears flattened defensively as the dark hedgehog stood up from the couch, making his way past them toward the black curtain entrance.

"Shads, where are you goin?" Sonic asked leaning out of the doorway.

"To get a drink."

"Oh...um...okay? I'll meet up with you later yeah?"

Shadow nodded absently but didn't turn around and continued toward the bar area of the VIP section. The hero reached out through their wavelength as he watched him leave, looking for any explanation to his rival's sudden bad mood. A gentle push was all he got in return, though he was thankful for any response at all. The emotion that brushed through his energy was not anger or irritation like he feared, but mild discomfort.

Sonic frowned, suddenly feeling a little awkward himself. He hadn't paid much attention to it at the time, but Espio's casual remark must have had more meaning than it appeared. The hero leaned in the doorway for a moment, unsure of how to approach him.

"Oh, don't worry your head about him, Blue, he's just being a stick in the mud again," Rouge said stroking azure quills softly. She squeezed by him through the doorway pausing momentarily to reach into her bosom.

"Here's a little something, its on me. Go with Vector and the boys and have a good time you hear?" She stuffed a fold of bills into the lapel of Sonic's suit.

"Rouge, he's my friend I'm not going to just...leave Shads to brood on his own--"

"I've got this. Trust me, he'll catch up, I'll make sure of it. Hey, can you boys take Big Blue gambling for a hot minute? I have to go grab Mr. No-Fun before his attitude gets the better of him."

Charmy flew beside the hero, grabbing his arm and pulling excitedly.

"Yeah! C'mon I know all the best games to play that give out a ton of chips!"

Vector narrowed his eyes at the black bee, pulling sharply on a striped antenna.

"Hey you better not have been usin' our money to play the slots again, boy!"

"Oh leave him alone Vector, its not like he doesn't make it back anyway. Now please, come along Sonic. Our mission is to make sure you have a good time by Miss Rose's request and we want to honor that."

Sonic let out a soft nervous chuckle, scratching the back of his head. Eventually he relented and let Charmy pull him along and giving an affirmative nod.

"Sure guys, I'd love to give it a try at least! Rouge make sure you point Shadow in our direction okay? I don't wanna lose him." The hero called to her, walking away with Team Chaotix.

The bat waved him off as she ambled toward the bar, giving him a confident smile.

"Yeah yeah, you have fun honey."

Once the blue hero was out of sight, Rouge turned on her heel immediately and stalked over to her grumpy colleague. Said hedgehog was knocking back shots aggressively, ignoring his biology and trying to get drunk through sheer willpower. A violet gloved hand grabbed Shadow's shoulder, turning the ultimate life form roughly in the round booth seat.

"What."

"Don't you 'what' me, boy. You just walked off and left your little blue buddy high and dry when this was supposed to be a trip for the two of you."

Shadow sucked his teeth, nudging the bat out of his personal space.

"The hedgehog knows I'm not mad at him. He asked me through our Chaos bond."

"Your what? Look hon, it doesn't take a special magical bond to know you aren't mad at him. You keep acting a certain way anytime someone implies you might be more than just rivals." Rouge sat in the seat next to him, waving the bartender down for a drink.

"You can't just act that way whenever you feel like it anymore. Its clear you and Big Blue are dancing around something and you need to just deal with it. That's what this trip is about. That's what...Amy would want."

Shadow closed his eyes briefly, letting out a strained sigh.

"Is Amy's passing just going to be another way for people to twist my arm when I don't want to comply? After all, you haven't brought it up until now."

Right away Shadow felt something shift in the air as soon as the words left his mouth. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Rouge pause and bite her lip, hurt flashing briefly in her eyes before the bartender came and handed her a Martini. The bat gave a strained smile as thanks and stirred her drink momentarily before speaking again.

"Shadow I would never do anything to hurt you. I only assumed you'd show me the same courtesy." She said tersely.

The dark hedgehog didn't reply, a small part if him regretting his words, but sticking to silence regardless.

"Amy and I weren't nearly as close as she was to Sonic and his friends but she was my friend too. Rosey was a smart girl, and was just as observant as I am about certain things." She slid her phone in front of Shadow, the screen showing a social media feed full of thousands of comments.

"What is this...?"

"Handsome's been taking pictures and tagging Amy's page, right? Well Vector wasn't the only one interested in how you boys were doing."

The ultimate life form raised a brow curiously, unsure of who else Amy had planned for them to meet. He picked up the phone and scrolled through comments on their picture in Tail's workshop.

'You guys are on your adventure! I'm so excited!!!!'

'They look so cute'

'I can't w8 to C the next place guys you 2 are my heroes'

It appeared Sonic had taken a few more pictures without his notice, seeing various images of Mystic Ruins and the outside of the workshop. As Shadow kept scrolling he eventually found their Sand Ruins photo from the colosseum, as well as a few more of the hotel.

'OMG they at the Grand Prix!'

'This is so cool, I hope U guys R havin fun you deserve it!'

'Who won the race?! I hav a bet wit my GF'

Shadow squinted at the next photo which was...incredibly dark. There were flashes of blue water here and there, and the comment section was just as confused as he was. There were a few more like that one but it wasnt until he made it the last picture that he understood, and his face immediately turned red.

The picture was taken back at the oasis, which explained the poor quality of the other strange photos before it since Sonic was drunk. Although this one was rather dark you could still make out the ultimate life form clearly, crouched low over the pool and scrolling through his phone. The water illuminated his fur, and crimson eyes glowed in the dim light.

Shadow had already told the hero he wasn't keen on photos of himself on the internet, and candid shots were especially a sore spot. However the photo itself was not what had captured the ultimate life form's attention.

The caption underneath was sloppily and poorly worded, but Sonic's message was clear;

'He soo prety guysszs gods I luv everthin about himm'

Shadow was mortified. How many people had seen this? What did they say? He was not only worried about how careless he had become around Sonic, enough for him to able to take a photo with his guard down, but how the implications would effect the blue hero's reputation. This image had more comments than any of the others; whether that was bad or good he couldn't tell. With a lump in his throat, Shadow scrolled downward to the comments section despite himself.

'wow he looks so good!'

'i bet y'all had fun *winks*'

'A romantic pool party? Nice bro'

'sand ruins omg i was there yesterday have fun in the oasis!'

He was...surprised.

These people were actually excited about the idea, if not rooting for them on their trip. The dark hedgehog had assumed since these were Amy's followers, that they all had fantasies of the her finally being a couple with everyone's favorite blue blur. While a scarce few of the comments did seem to talk on Amy's misfortune in love, the majority were overwhelmingly in support of the rivals and their personal trip together. Shadow was not one to put much stock into how the public viewed him, as long as they didn't become an active problem. He would never meet them and their scorn meant very little.

However this was different. These people he had never known, and yet their support and affection were given freely to him. It reminded Shadow of when Amy invited him over in the cake shop to see Sonic and his friends after such a long time.

It felt...nice.

"Can I have my phone back now?"

"...Of course." He slid the phone back across to Rouge, the white bat smiling at the screen before putting the device in her bra.

"Shadow...you aren't the only one who has noticed this shift between you and Blue. Everyone else has too. Nobody is forcing you to do anything or trying to tell you what to do, they just want you to know they care."

She patted his hand softly, a loving smile on her pink lips.

"It's called being supportive, honey. I know its odd, but there's no reason to be defensive about it; its simply something you'll have to get use to."

The ultimate live form grunted in reply, resting his head in his hand.

"Rouge, I apologize for what I said before."

"Don't sweat it. It just means you owe me again. Anyway, I'm going to go have a little fun while we're here. Your partner is with Vector and the others down the hall. You should join them." She spread her wings and flew away swiftly, disappearing behind one of the silk curtains across the room.

Shadow watched her go, taking notice of her empty Martini on the table. He supposed covering her drink was the least he could do. A low buzzing caught his attention and Shadow pulled his phone out of a blue suit pocket, a text notification glowing on the screen.

'U ok Shads?'

He smirked; it hadn't even been 10 minutes apart and the blue idiot was worried about him.

'Yes. I'm on my way.'

 

Eventually Shadow caught up to the rest of the group, walking around one of the big halls of slot machines on the VIP floor. Sonic was starry-eyed and excited with gambling, not so much for the money itself but the lights and the feeling of beating the machine. The hero's excitement was infectious, his buzzing Chaos energy glossing over Shadow's soured mood once more. He decided to lend Sonic a few hundred dollars to continue playing for a little while longer and insisted he didn't mind when the blue hedgehog tried to refuse. He wanted to see him as happy as possible after the concern he caused Sonic before.

"I wouldn't be giving Hero Boy too much money, Stripes. This place is rigged for VIPs to win big five times but he's on at least his seventh try." Vector whispered to Shadow out of earshot.

"He's gonna waste a lot of your money and you know the kid doesn't really get how that shit works."

The ultimate life form merely shrugged, not overly concerned about the cost.

"It doesn't matter." He replied.

"I have more than enough."

Later on in the night, Vector led the two hedgehogs to a hotel connected to the casino on the ground floor. It was nearly 2am and the group agreed that staying someplace within walking distance was the best idea.

The hotel interior was identical to the design of the VIP room with its black walls and dim lighting, the only difference being it had individual private rooms instead of sectioned off areas with drapes. The hotel was nearly empty save for the room Espio checked Charmy into for bed, so Sonic and Shadow had their pick of which type they wanted to stay in. The four of them stood in the hallway outside of Charmy's room deciding where they were sleeping.

"Vector, how about we give them the room you and I usually stayed in?" Espio suggested.

"What? No..." The crocodile said nervously glancing in Shadow's direction.

"I thought you and I were gonna...y'know, do what we always did when we stayed late here. I like that room."

The chameleon crossed his arms, seeming a tad irritated by Vector's hesitance.

"We can have intercourse in any room. It doesn't have to be the one with the mirrors all the time."

Sonic choked.

Shadow swore to Chaos he wasn't picturing it.

Vector quickly covered Espio's entire face with a large hand, green muzzle turning a bright pink.

"Ah hahaha...! You guys can have the room its the last one at the end of the hall! D-don't mind Es, okay?" Espio pushed the hand away, a satisfied smirk hiding behind it.

"I am glad you agree, Vector. Now then, we should get to bed too shouldn't we? Our shift for Mr. Fang's VIP section starts fairly early tomorrow."

"R-right. Uh...later guys!" The detective said quickly following after his partner.

Sonic stared at them blankly, trying to process what he had just heard fall out of Espio's mouth. Luckily, Shadow recovered from his shock in time to open their room door and step inside.

"Hurry up Faker I'm tired--oh Chaos."

"What's wrong? Is this the wro--" The hero stopped short, blinking repeatedly once he set eyes on the room.

The walls were a deep purple color with soft black carpet on the floor. Neon blue lights lined the left wall, which was covered in mirror tile reflecting the rest of the room. In the center sat a large heart shaped bed with black sheets, purple animal print pillows piled high at the headboard.

Shadow's eye twitched once he noticed the headboard was padded.

"So...um. This is... a lot." Sonic pipped up, pushing his way past the dark hedgehog. He gave the room a quick once-over before laying out flat on the bed.

"It's not bad though."

"It doesn't bother you?"

"That Vector and Espio fucked in here? Yeah a little bit but they change the sheets in hotels so I'm not too worried." The hero sat up, an unusual look in his eyes as he gave Shadow a cheshire smile.

"Actually...come here." he said softly.

It took all of Shadow's willpower not to visibly shiver at the request. Wordlessly he sat on the bed beside Sonic, fiddling with his suit cuffs trying to seem casual.

"Why did you want me to come here?"

An arm wrapped around his waist, holding him there gently.

"Just hold still. I wanna take a picture."

"Of us? In here? Isn't this a little..."

"A little what? I took pictures of the casino while you were gone but I didn't take one of us. I should do it now right?"

The ultimate life form nodded; clearly Sonic was opting to play the innocent card.

The hero reached into his suit pocket and pulled out a phone, holding it high above them and flashing that trademark winning smile. A click sounded shortly after, and Sonic let out a soft breathless chuckle while tapping on his phone.

"I almost don't want to share this...you look even better in this light, you know?"

"Oh do I?" Shadow asked evenly.

"Better than the lights in the oasis?"

Sonic's face paled immediately.

"Oh gods, Shads--"

"Hedgehog--"

"I'm so sorry I know you said you don't like taking pictures and you were only doing them for the trip--"

"Faker, listen--"

"I was just drunk off my ass and I had completely forgotten about it! I regretted it so much, but then everyone started liking it--"

"I'm not mad."

Sonic's eyes widened a bit, staring at the dark hedgehog dumfounded.

"You're...not?"

"Well, I'm a little mad." Shadow said crossing his arms.

"But only because you said you wanted to keep pictures of me all to yourself. However, there's always more pictures to take."

Sonic stared at him for a moment.

"Would...you let me? Right now?"

Something about the way he asked set Shadow's skin on fire. Emerald eyes bore into crimson with that familiar intensity the dark hedgehog had secretly been yearning to see again. This time he could actually feel it too, Sonic's energy curling delicately around his own like a low burning flame.

"Of course." The reply left Shadow's lips before he even knew what he was saying.

Sonic's pupils dilated and the ultimate life form felt something in the air shift immediately. He placed hand on Shadow's chest and pushed lightly, urging him to lie back on the bed. The dark hedgehog complied, curious as to where this was going.

In an instant Sonic had crawled over him, slender legs straddling his rival in one smooth movement.

"Hold still, it'll be Okay. Okay?" he whispered. Though his ravenous tone sounded anything but reassuring. The hero removed his gloves slowly and put them in a black pants pocket, peach fingers sliding up and delicately undoing Shadow's green tie.

"What exactly do you plan to do?"

Sonic didn't look up, continuing to undo the tie and unbutton the white dress shirt.

"Just takin' a picture."

A shiver ran up Shadow's spine as ungloved hands ran through his exposed chest fur, the touch sending a tingling feeling through his skin. He grunted as the hands left him, one pulling an arm above his head, the other holding the cellphone.

"Both arms up, please." Sonic said with a mischievous smirk.

The ultimate life form did as he was told, placing the other arm flat on the bed above him. Sonic busied himself with opening the suit entirely, until Shadow's whole torso was exposed. His heart leapt into his throat at the hero undoing his belt, but calmed down once Sonic finished adjusting it to his liking. He leaned back, admiring Shadow's form for a few heartbeats, then brought the phone up to his lips.

A series of small clicks sounded as the blue hedgehog aimed the camera, taking pictures from different angles and adjusting them. All the while, Shadow was having a hard time keeping himself calm. Sonic was practically sitting on his groin, and every slight movement generated friction that sent his energy sky rocketing. He knew that his rival could tell; Sonic's own energy would spike in unison with Shadow's in acknowledgement.

"I know I keep saying this but you look so good, Shads. Incredible."

" 'Incredible' is a new one."

" 'Good' isn't cutting it anymore so I gotta find new words." Sonic replied, tucking the phone away.

"Thanks for the pictures, dude."

Shadow shrugged.

"Thanks for the ride."

They stared at each other for a moment, the world seeming to grind to a halt around them. The air was buzzing with their energies, anticipation and lust dancing back and forth along their bond so fiercely Shadow was finding it harder and harder to breathe. The hero leaned over him slowly, never breaking eye contact as he inched closer to the ultimate life form sprawled out underneath him.

Peach lips brushed against Shadow's own hesitantly, the slight contact alone sparking an intense hunger deep inside him. Sonic retreated a fraction, but Shadow followed, catching the hero's lips in his own before he could go any further. Sonic leaned into the kiss, tilting his head slightly to get better access to Shadow's mouth, pink tongue prodding gently at fawn lips demanding entrance.

The ultimate life form relented and parted his lips slightly, surprised by the sensation of Sonic's tongue licking hungrily into his mouth. He grabbed desperately at blue hips, digging his nails into the suit and pulling them down on his growing erection.

Sonic gasped, breathless, the soft needy moan abruptly cut off by Shadow claiming his mouth once again. Peach hands ran through black quills, gripping the short fur underneath and pulling Shadow closer, the dark hedgehog growling hungrily into the kiss. The hero began to pull away, a hand behind Shadow's head gripping him firmly so he wouldn't follow him as he broke the kiss gasping for air. The ultimate life form took the opportunity to breathe himself, not realizing how much he needed it until now.

Shadow was pretty sure if Sonic hadn't stopped him, he would have kept going until he passed out from lack of air.

"...Sorry." He managed to get out hoarsely.

Sonic smiled, bruised lips planting a chaste kiss on Shadow's.

"Don't be, I liked it. Plus I kinda started it."

He inhaled sharply, feeling the hero's hips grind downward into his groin a little. In the fluffy haze Shadow could detect a clear feeling of anticipation, reluctance, and that gentle insistent prodding he had felt before. Another slow grind against him sent a thrill through Shadow's body, this one a little needier than before. Sonic's gaze met his once again, pupils blown so wide Shadow swore they were swallowing him whole.

Oh.

It finally clicked.

Sonic was asking for permission.

For what, Shadow didn't know, but he desperately wanted to find out.

for a brief moment sanity kicked in, the ultimate life form going through his mind checking to see if he had any reason to object.

"Shads..."

Damn.

He couldn't argue with that.

"I'm here." Shadow replied, kissing Sonic's cheek softly.

Suddenly the room door flew open, jolting both hedgehogs back to reality. Sonic landed harshly on the floor as Shadow sat up, both angered and surprised by the interruption. Vector was standing in the doorway, panting hard and looking all the world like he had just seen a ghost.

"Geez Vector...you think you could knock next time?" Sonic groaned picking himself up off the ground.

"I hate to break up your make out session but we gotta move, now!"

"Why? what's wrong?" Shadow asked buttoning up his shirt slowly.

"Fang is pissed and he's coming for all of us right now! That damned bat I knew she was trouble!" The crocodile hissed kicking the doorframe angrily.

"What do you mean?"

"What do I mean?!" He roared.

"The giant Master Emerald replica in the lobby is gone! "

Chapter Text

"They got Charmy."

"They what? "

Vector stepped out of the hotel room gingerly, avoiding the scattered furniture on the floor. He turned to Espio shaking his head slowly at the mess.

"They took him, but it looks like the kid put up a good fight before they did at least."

"How were they able to do this much damage without you noticing when your rooms were right next to each other?" Shadow asked pushing the broken door lightly.

"Fang called us down to the VIP floor shortly after we left to go to our room," Espio growled.

"Little did we know, he only did that to tell us his ultimatums and send his cohorts to steal Charmy."

"This is all that damn bat's fault! I told you two she--"

"It doesn't matter who's fault it is." Sonic pipped up quickly. He nudged Vector aside and made his way toward the elevator.

"We've gotta get him back before the guy decides he doesn't wanna babysit anymore. I'll weed him out of wherever he's hidin'."

Espio shook his head, putting a hand on the hero's shoulder.

"He is actually on his way here to see you two. We were told Fang wants to negotiate with us."

"Nah, nah I don't negotiate with terrorists. I am literally faster than the speed of sound. Let's just kick his ass."

"Hedgehog we don't have much of a choice, this is a criminal and we're in his establishment with hundreds of civilians. If we want to make sure everyone gets out of here safely, we have to be smart of this."

"Shads, c'mon, really? We could just chaos control to this dude and snag Charmy before he even knows what hit him!" Sonic replied shaking his head in disbelief.

Shadow narrowed his eyes, already tired of the conversation.

"You don't think the weasel has accounted for that? He wouldn't threaten a hero if he didn't have a plan to prepare."

"Eggman 'prepared' all the time and that didn't make much of a difference did it?!"

"Uh guys--"

"You say that as if your brash nature didn't cause any problems along the way. All I'm asking is that we don't go running headlong into a situation and make it worse."

"Guys!"

"All I'm asking is that you stop acting like I don't know what I'm doing; we're wasting time arguing!"

"Oh no, please, continue. This is actually quite entertaining."

The hero turned quickly, eyes darting around momentarily before settling on the purple weasel at the end of the hallway. Fang was leaning against the elevator doors, surrounded by various thugs in black suits. At the forefront were the woodpecker and polar bear Sonic had seen before in the VIP room hours earlier. The bear was almost twice Vector's size and had Charmy tucked under his arm. While the boy looked uncomfortable in his position, Sonic was relieved to see that he was unhurt.

"Fang."

"That's some real sneaky crap you pulled taking the boy." Vector growled.

Fang shrugged, buffing his sharp black nails on his suit.

"It was sneaky of that bat to take the crown jewel of my casino so I guess that makes us even doesn't it?"

"Bullshit! I was trying to keep her out this whole time, doesn't it make more sense go after the person who actually stole your shit?"

Shadow shot the crocodile a harsh glare, Vector giving a dismissive shrug in reply.

"I'm only tellin' the truth, Stripes. She's your friend, and your problem, not mine."

"On the contrary, she's your problem by association," Fang interrupted, leaning off of the elevator doors and walking toward the group.

"You brought Sonic here, and he brought her here. So it only makes sense that all of you are to pay for the damages, no?"

"Oh really now? What do you want?" Espio asked.

"Well...that's a good question," the mobster drawled casually. He took a moment to pull a lighter out of his suit pocket and lit a cigar.

"You see...normally I'd just force ya to either rat out the bat or pay me back for the gem. But its not every day a humble ol' fellow like me finds himself with the hero of Mobius wrapped around his finger."

"Just get to the point before I start bashing you and all your goons." Sonic growled tapping his foot impatiently. He was trying to map out their escape route while Fang was carrying on, but the weasel brought more than enough guys to block them in the hallway. The hero also noticed the polar bear had moved to the back of the group with Charmy still in his arms; Fang was keeping the kid out of view just in case they tried to ambush head on or Chaos control. He couldn't spin dash without possibly harming the boy.

"Ah, of course, I forgot your trademark impatience. Forgive me, Hedgehog, I'm simply just a tad starstruck...this is such a wonderful opportunity. Well I'll make this quick; If you want the boy back in one piece...I want the real Master Emerald."

"You what? " Espio asked bewildered.

"Even if we did give into your wild request it isn't up to us. There is still the echidna guardian who would never let you near it."

"In case you couldn't tell from the giant diamond replica I had made, I have an affinity for the Emerald. You're well acquainted with the guardian, so I want you all to go and bring it to me."

Shadow glanced briefly at the ceiling, seeming distracted. He rolled his eyes and gave an exasperated sigh.

"And if we don't?"

The weasel sneered.

"I think you and I both know the answer to that, don't we, Project Shadow?"

The ultimate life form's whole body stiffened, a harsh wave of chaos energy washed over Sonic so intense that he shivered, blue ears flattening defensively.

"Now can I kick his ass?" Sonic asked tightly glaring daggers in Fang's direction.

Shadow clenched his jaw, red eyes filled with a barely contained rage. He tilted his head slightly as if not quite hearing the blue hedgehog, then nodded.

"You know what? Go ahead."

"Wait Stripes, what about--"

"Shut up. Go on, hedgehog. Entertain yourself."

Fang pulled out a revolver, sliding a finger idly over the barrel. His toothy grin widened in anticipation as he shook his head.

"Looks like you folks wanna play it the hard way...oh well. Bark, bring me the kid." He cocked the gun quickly, gesturing for his men to step aside.

"Let's see how cocky these guys are when their little friend has a bullet in his leg--"

Fang jumped out of the way just in time before the polar bear hit the floor. The other thugs backed away quickly, staring at Bark completely confused. A few of them looked Shadow's way, terrified that somehow the dark hedgehog had taken down the biggest member of their group without moving a muscle.

Sonic looked at Shadow.

Shadow looked up.

The hero followed his rival's gaze and saw a vent grate quickly moving back into place.

"You..!" Fang snarled reeling on the group.

"What did you do to Bark?!"

"Uh...yeah, what did you do to the big guy? And where is Charmy?" Vector asked, scratching his head awkwardly.

"Unless it was you, Es? I know that's kinda your thing, doin' sneak attacks."

Espio shook his head and gestured to the unconscious bear on the hotel floor. A knowing smile flashed briefly across his face.

"It was not my doing. However I have a feeling that if you examine your bear friend, Mr. Fang, you will find out."

"Boss, look!" the woodpecker called suddenly as he rolled Bark over onto his side. In the back of the polar bear's neck was a small tranquilizer dart covered in pink gem hearts.

"That bitch! She's still here! Bean, you go after the broad and blow her to bits. Find out where she's hiding. I'll take care of the trash." The purple weasel cocked his gun and pointed toward the elevator doors.

"Oh no ya don't!" Sonic shouted, already in a spin dash straight towards the woodpecker before Shadow could stop him. In a flash, Fang fired his revolver in the hero's direction causing Sonic to veer off course and crash through one of the hotel doors.

"Sonic!" Shadow called, but he was stopped short by Fang pointing the dangerous weapon straight at him.

"Don't move. I know you're not as fast as blue boy there and I was able to get a shot off on him so--!" The mobster's body suddenly jolted and he dropped the gun, seemingly frozen in place by an invisible force.

"I believe it is you who should not move." A low voice sounded in his ear. Something sharp pricked against Fang's adam's apple, his breath catching in his throat. Espio materialized behind him causing the group of thugs to advance on the purple chameleon immediately.

"Ah no ya don't!" Vector roared tackling the closest one to the ground. Despite his large size the crocodile was fast, scooping up the man and tossing him clear across the room into the others knocking them on the ground.

Shadow took the opportunity to check on Sonic, running quickly into the hotel room he landed in. The room was dark but the ultimate life form could see well enough, spying the hero leaning against the far wall clutching his side.

"Sonic, are you alright?" he asked making his way over to kneel beside the blue hedgehog. Shadow reached out gingerly to move his hand but Sonic refused, jolting away from his touch.

"I-I'm fine! I just didn't expect him to actually get me..."

"Well he is called Fang the Sniper, hedgehog. I would assume he is a decent shot...now let me see."

Shadow reached out again, this time feeling out Sonic's Chaos energy before he touched him. It was frazzled and full of anxiety and panic despite the hero keeping a relatively calm demeanor. Oddly enough, Shadow began to feel a sharp pain in his side as well. The visceral feeling of blood and tissue becoming as vivid as his own the longer he focused. Eventually Sonic's annoyance creeped in across their bond and pushed Shadow further away.

"Its nothing serious, you'll be fine. hold still a second, and don't push me away this time. I'm going to heal you."

"We'll do this later! I gotta get back out there--whoa!"

Shadow gripped Sonic's neck roughly and pinned him onto the floor.

"And do what? Bleed all over them? Hold still, faker."

The hero's body tensed against Shadow's hold, but the dark hedgehog didn't move, knowing that Sonic would kick him off if he got the chance. He didn't mean to put him in such a threatening grip but Shadow could not find an immediate hold on the blue hedgehog that wouldn't get in the way of tending to the wound.

Quickly he ripped the suit open, exposing Sonic's torso and the ragged bullet wound bleeding out on his side. A sharp gasp left the hero's lips suddenly and Shadow flinched.

"Did that hurt?"

"N-No...that was just...quick."

Shadow shrugged and placed a hand over the wound, willing his chaos energy into his rival's body. Something familiar blended in with Sonic's anxiety, an odd feeling of anticipation and excitement leaking into Shadow's mind. Unconsciously, the ultimate life form tightened his grip on the hero's neck at the sensation.To his surprise, Sonic did not attempt to remove the hand around his throat when it tightened or even flinch under it. His lithe form relaxed under the grip, green eyes dilated as a pink tinge creeped across his muzzle.

Shadow blinked.

'He likes this...?'

"A-are you done?" Sonic asked breathlessly as he began to squirm in Shadow's hold. The dark hedgehog nodded and removed his hand, the wound completely gone and light peach flesh scarred over in its place.

"Yes, sorry about that--"

A volley of gunshots rang out interrupting them and the hero lept up, speeding off into the hallway. Shadow followed after him, pushing his questions about the hero's strange reaction to the back of his mind.

Vector was panting heavily and leaned against the opposite wall for support. The only people left in the hallway were the crocodile himself and the pile of unconscious thugs near the door. Fang however, was nowhere in sight.

"Are you okay? Where's Espio?"

Vector shook his head still out of breath, and pointed behind himself. The purple chameleon changed back into his normal hue, perched on the detective's shoulder.

"We are alright. Unfortunately Fang escaped in the scuffle. His goons recovered quickly and Vector was going to fend them off alone...I had to release him."

Said crocodile managed to regain his breath, growling irritably at his partner.

"You could've just let me handle them, Es, I'm twice your size and I can lift a damn truck!"

"Lifting a truck is not a qualification for handling multiple enemies; something I have trained for. Besides, the moment I released him he began firing wildly in your direction--"

"I was fine. The dumbass didn't even hit me!"

"That was my doing--! You know what, it does not matter." Espio sighed, patting the crocodile's broad green head affectionately.

"As long as you are safe."

"Should we go after Fang?" Sonic asked.

"Nah, the guy has ties all over town so it would be best for us to just split and--shit! "

Vector shouted, glancing wildly around the hall.

"Bean wasn't here! This is bad, we have to stop him!"

Shadow shrugged.

"Rouge is more than capable of handling one thug on her own. Certainly that scrawny green woodpecker."

"You don't understand Stripes, Bean is more dangerous than he looks, and has no chill once Fang gives him the green light. They call him Bean the Dynamite for a reason!"

The blue hero stiffened, his eyes going wide. "So when Fang said to 'blow her to bits'..."

"We have to move. Now."

 

"I don't know where I'm going, why am I in front again?"

"Just shush and do as I say, child. You're staying in front of me so I can keep an eye on you."

"For the last time, told you that was an accident!" Charmy protested.

Rouge rolled her eyes, pushing the kid further along. "Uh-huh, sure. Honestly, this is why I don't hang around teenagers. Little boys cannot keep their wandering hands to themselves..."

The two of them had been crawling for several minutes through the vent of the hotel, trying to make it back to the casino's main lobby. Rouge had been in the vents multiple times in the past to avoid Espio, but the chameleon was always able to weed her out eventually. However she had never went into them via the hotel, so the bat was having trouble figuring out her way back to the main vents.

"Its another wall, miss lady." The teen called patting the steel wall in front of him.

"dammit, I had a feeling that would happen."

"Maybe we can follow the air flow and make our way to a vent that leads outside. We can both fly, so it doesn't matter what floor its on right?"

A sly smirk played on Rouge's pink lips.

"Not a bad idea, you're a smart little thing aren't you?"

"Well my dads are detectives after all. You pick up on this stuff."

"Hmm...remind me to call you next time I have another job to do, I could use a partner as sly as myself."

a low trill from her wrist communicator sounded through the vent walls. Rouge paused and clicked it on speaker as they continued up the vent in the opposite direction.

"Shadow, darling, its so nice of you to call how are you? By the way, if Blue asks, I'm borrowing his pink varsity right now. Its so cozy~ "

"How am I? Woman, you've caused an uproar down here, and left us to deal with the matter all for some foolish gemstone."

"Oh nonsense, I hardly call Fang's temper an 'uproar.' Besides I didn't leave you. I came back to help as soon as the gem was stored safely away. Did you really think I would leave my favorite grumpy boy high and dry?"

"Yes."

"Hmph. Well, I didn't. Plus the bee child is safe isn't he? So Vector and his little ninja twink can thank me later."

"Where are you now?"

Rouge glanced down into the nearest grate, spying a familiar white marble floor.

"Ah, we're above the hotel lobby. Not the casino lobby, but It'll do. No need to worry hon, it looks like all of Fang's goons cleared out of the hotel entirely so we'll be outside shortly."

"Wait don't--"

She clicked the communicator off and pulled a lipstick out from her bosom. The bat gave it a slight twist and pointed it downward, a thin purple laserlight cutting through the grate.

"Wow is that a real spy laser like on TV?" Charmy asked squeezing beside Rouge in the small space. She nudged him back trying to keep the beam steady.

"Yes, now be careful I don't want to end up cutting one of us by mistake."

Another quick twist turned the laser beam off and a smooth cut line was left in its place around the grate. Rouge pushed the vent grate outward, a loud clatter sounding as it hit the marble floor. The sound was louder than Rouge anticipated so she waited a few heartbeats to see if it drew anyone's attention.

"Rouge is that you?"

The bat poked her head out cautiously, teal eyes softening on the blue hedgehog below her.

"Hey Big Blue, what's good, honey?"

"Oh good you're safe. Is Charmy okay? Is...that my varsity?"

The young teen squeezed past Rouge, waving wildly down to the blue hedgehog.

"I'm good!"

"Also here, Blue." Rouge called throwing the pink jacket down. Sonic caught it and slipped it on quickly, giving her a thumbs up and a cocky smile as thanks.

"Where's Shadow?"

"Ah, he gave me his emerald so I could get down here faster, just in case the other guy did."

Rouge chuckled as she swooped down from the vent, Charmy following close behind as they landed.

"He gave it to you? That's hard to believe."

"No, the faker yanked it from me." Shadow's voice echoed through the empty lobby. He and others decided to take the elevator down shortly after Sonic's disappearance. Shadow held the elevator door open for Vector and Espio, the large crocodile nearly knocking him over as he bolted out of the doors, scooping Charmy up in his arms.

"Kid you're safe! Chaos, I was so worried about ya! I-I mean...Es was worried about ya, but I told him you'd be fine."

"Dad, c'mon, I missed you too but I'm not a baby! put me down."

"Right...uh...of course." Vector replied setting the bee child down quickly.

"Pfft, did he call you 'Dad'? My Gods..." Sonic chuckled, holding a hand up to his mouth. The detective's face turned a bright red at the hero's comment, his long green tail slapping angrily on the floor.

"H-hey! don't be mad just because I'll be more daddy then you'll ever be, Blue boy!"

Shadow crossed his arms and leaned against a nearby wall silently relieved everyone got out of the situation in one piece. As the heroes squabbled in the lobby the dark hedgehog closed his eyes and let his mind relax, thinking about where their next location might be. Almost abruptly, his thoughts drifted back to him tending Sonic's injuries and the tantalizing feeling of anticipation creeping in their bond as he tightened his grip on the hero's throat...

Shadow blinked rapidly and grunted, quickly pushing the image further back into his mind once more. What hell was that, and why did Sonic enjoy it so much...?

Black ears perked up suddenly, their sensitivity picking up a low pattering noise coming from above them. The noise became clearer and now a sharp beeping could be heard in the vent above them. Rouge heard it too and looked up, teal eyes going wide at something Shadow couldn't see.

a large black object dropped from the vent, its beeping speeding up faster and fast every second as it fell. Espio and Rouge moved quickly but Shadow was faster, shoving the group far across the room along with himself. In his haste the ultimate life form knocked them all over on impact, but his main concern was the blue hero. Sonic was too far from the group for Shadow to grab in time with the others, but the dark hedgehog trusted him to get away safely.

Thankfully, he was gone.

And...so was the bomb.

Shadow searched the room frantically, cursing himself for giving the blue idiot his Chaos emerald. He wouldn't really do something that foolish would he?

A far away boom sounded softly in the distance, low trembles vibrated under his boots. Rouge stood up slowly and glanced around the room, her eyes shrinking when she noticed the blue blur was nowhere in sight.

"Uh...Shadow...?"

'Shit.'

'Shit shit shit shit shit...!'

Wordlessly the dark hedgehog dashed out of the lobby, weaving his way through the colorful bright lights of Casino Park's city streets. Everything seemed to blend together and disoriented him, making it harder for Shadow to focus on Sonic's Chaos energy through the wild intense panic of his own.

It was low...too low.

Was he hurt?

Or could he just not sense Sonic that well because he was far away?

Where was he?

'There...!'

Shadow halted in the middle of a busy street, a nearby car crashing straight into him.The ultimate life form hardly noticed, the speeding vehicle bouncing off of him and stalling immediately on impact.

Sonic's energy was faint and sluggish but clear as day farther outside the city limits. Shadow cut through the main highway, his rocket boots leaving scorched lines down the bright neon streets.

Once he was out of Casino Park, Shadow could clearly sense the hero now. Eventually he spotted a large dust cloud settling near the road on the horizon, sensing his rival's energy in short weak spikes. Shadow halted at a smoking crater carved into the ground, Sonic's unconscious form barely visible through the haze.

"Sonic!? Sonic!" Shadow shouted quickly hunching over the scarred fallen hero. Sonic was breathing raggedly, bright azure fur now dusted into a sullen navy from the ashes. Scraps of his suit and jacket clung loosely to his body, his gloves burned off entirely in the blast. A low groan sounded from the bruised hedgehog as Shadow cradled his head in his lap. He slapped him harshly, panic creeping along his pelt as Sonic's energy flickered in and out.

"Wake up Faker, come on...! Wake up so I can beat your ass for doing some of the stupidest shit I've ever seen!"

Sonic grimaced and blinked, hazy emerald eyes focusing on the dark form above him. A weak goofy smile made its way onto his face.

"Heyyy...what's up Shads...-- ow! Son of a bitch!" The blue hedgehog gripped his bleeding nose weakly, recoiling away from Shadow's waiting fist. Sonic sat up and scrambled away from his rival, irritation flashing in his unfocused gaze.

"What the hell is wrong with you I'm already in pai-- ow! stop it!"

"Glad you're alright, Faker." Shadow commented dryly.

"Now hold still. You owe me at least two more punches."

 

A hazy orange smear of sunlight made its way over the city skyline just as the heroes trudged their way back to 'Club Rouge'. Espio managed to catch Bean in the air vents and Vector decided to hold him for ransom at their secret base of operations. However he wouldn't tell even the hero of mobius where it was. Sonic offered to help them with the rest of their case but the crocodile refused, saying that they had a long line of enemies now with their cover blown by Fang the Sniper and this was only the beginning of their investigations.

"You've done more than enough Blue, but these small fry criminals are what Chaotix specializes in. We can take care of this on our own." Vector replied giving the hero a hearty pat on the back. Espio nodded sagely at his partner's words.

"You two still have the rest of miss Rose's trip to enjoy. Do take care on your journey. We wish you luck."

Once they left 'The Master Emerald' Shadow and Sonic felt drained mentally and physically after the ordeal. even Rouge seemed tired from what her antics had caused, the bat opting to carry her heels and walk barefoot halfway down the block. They weren't as young as they use to be, and it was starting to take a toll on them.

After the trio entered the club, Rouge immediately made her way over to the bar and pulled out a bottle of vodka.

"Here boys," She called as she fished around for some glasses behind the counter.

"I think we all deserve a drink."

Sonic nodded and took a seat at the bar, Shadow following his lead and sitting next to him. The hero fiddled absently with the shredded remains of his varsity jacket, a faded scrap of pink the only thing left behind he could salvage.

"Are you alright?" Shadow asked softly.

" 'M Fine."

"...I'm not upset with you anymore about taking the bomb with you, hedgehog. After a while I realized that an explosion that big would have caused damage to the entire block. You went with your instincts as a hero and I respect you."

Sonic shook his head, giving Shadow a weak smile.

"Thanks Shads, but I know you were only upset with me because you care." He rubbed his bruised nose tenderly.

"You care so much it hurts...Chaos. I just...nah, nevermind."

"No, no, spit it out."

"...I feel like...I didn't know what I was doing today, you know? I got shot and blown up and the bad guy got away. I wasn't even able to protect everyone."

The dark hedgehog narrowed his eyes thoughtfully at his rival, confused.

"You've never had a plan before and that didn't bother you; you've always been the type to go with your gut and as much as it infuriates me, you ended up saving hundreds of lives today. I fail to see what is bothering you."

"I just felt like I lost control of everything right until the very end. Vector and Espio could've gotten hurt, and Charmy could have too if Rouge didn't show up. I'm the hero and yet I let everything get out of hand so fast...everyone had to fend for themselves..." Sonic ran a thumb over the pink fabric in his hand with a faraway look in his eyes. Shadow glanced down at it for a moment, his gaze softening on the blue hedgehog.

"You literally took a bomb for everyone today. Don't beat yourself up over the details, hedgehog. You did good and saved lives. That's what matters."

"I'll drink to that!" Rouge cheered filling three crystal glasses with alcohol.

"Tonight was a blast from the past if there ever was one, that's for sure. It's been a while since I've done anything that exciting."

"Don't you and Shads work for the government? You guys are literally secret agents."

The bat took a long swig from the bottle, letting out a deep sigh as she finished.

"Yeah, but its always planned out and is fairly simple; get intel, or kill this guy or whatever. We're so good at our jobs its practically boring. This felt good, going into an unplanned situation and just letting loose. Plus I got a pretty gemstone out of it, which isn't a bad price to pay if I do say so myself."

"Where is the replica anyway?"

"Ah ah, a girl never tells her secrets.~ Buuuut its in my garage back in Station Square."

Shadow rolled his eyes, already fed up with his frivolous colleague's antics for the day.

"Well, I'm going to lay down for a little bit, is that cool with you guys?" Sonic asked stretching his sore body.

"There's a guest room on the second floor darling, help yourself."

"Thanks."

Shadow turned to watch the hero go, grimacing at the various scars visible through his blue fur.

"Are you sure you're alright?"

"I'm fine Shads," The hero chuckled softly. "You've been poking into my Chaos wavelength since we left the casino, and healed me at least 80 times. You know I'm alright. I'll catch you in a few hours, babe."

The ultimate life form nodded leaving Sonic alone for the time being to get some rest.

"Hm, that's interesting." Rouge replied once the hero was out of earshot.

"The pet name? It's not a big deal."

"Oh I beg to differ, that's a huge deal, 'babe' and we're going to discuss that soon. However I was referring to the..."

"Scrap of fabric? I know. He took it with him."

The bat's eyes clouded over as she glanced up the staircase, her slender fingers drummed nervously on the smooth bar table.

"He's the kind of nice boy who makes you worry about him all the time. Take care of him okay?"

Shadow heaved a heavy sigh and gazed out the club windows, the dull warmth of sunrise washing over his dark fur. He squinted at its brightness, realizing soon they would have to get moving to the next location. He silently hoped nothing else would trouble Sonic on their trip together but if it did, the ultimate life form was more than ready to deal with it.

"Of course." Shadow said at last.

"I will always take care of him."

Chapter Text

Sonic may have pulled off some incredible feats in his life, but no matter how hard he stared at the clock he couldn't make time go any faster.

Well, at least not without a Chaos emerald, anyway.

The hero tapped his fingers impatiently on the kitchen table, a blue leg bouncing frantically as he glared at the clock on the stove and tried to think of where said emeralds might be. He was fast, maybe he could just find one real quick and pop back in before she--

"Stop trying to figure out a way to make time go faster, its not going to happen." Amy scolded him lightly.

"I-I wasn't doing that. I was...just wondering where he's at is all. He's as fast as I am and still hasn't shown up."

"Sonic, it's 7:58. Chill, please." She sat down beside the agitated hero, her soft light green eyes searching him for a moment before speaking.

"Shadow will be happy to see you, you know that? Even if he doesn't show it."

"You say that...What if he's not? I mean what do we do, ask him to leave? What if I say something stupid and he punches me?"

Amy shook her head smiling and gave a low chuckle at Sonic's anxiousness. He narrowed his eyes at her, flabbergasted.

"Are you laughing at me!?"

"S-sorry! Sorry! You've just never been this unsure about anything in your life, and it's a little funny to see you look so flustered."

A low groan left the blue hedgehog's lips as he slammed his head on the kitchen table. Shadow had actually agreed to come see him and it sent all sorts of exciting thoughts through his mind of what they could do together, and all their adventures they had in the past. Sonic had desperately missed the ultimate life form and wanted to race him again, or spar for a little while to make up for lost time. However, Shadow had always been the distant type, and the hero was worried that this whole get together would simply be a waste of his rival's time.

Amy had assured him that the dark hedgehog was interested in coming, and Sonic was surprised when she also told him that Shadow was going to be here entirely on his own, without Rouge. Unfortunately, Knuckles decided to bail once he knew Shadow was coming, and Tails texted them he would be late getting home, so it would just be the three of them tonight.

Something rapped softly at the screen door in the kitchen and Sonic held his breath.

Amy jumped up, letting out an excited squeal as she ran over to the door.

"Ah, he's right on time! 8:00 sharp. Hello, Shad-- oh!"

The ultimate life form stood in the doorway, completely drenched from head to toe by the unexpected storm. Despite the fact Shadow wasn't bothered by harsh weather he still seemed highly uncomfortable, shifting from side to side impatiently. Amy glanced up to the sky and let out a small gasp as she ushered Shadow quickly inside.

"Oh Gods, I'm so sorry, I had no idea it was raining! Come inside and I'll go get you a towel to dry off with. I'll be right back!" The pink hedgehog shut the screen door quickly and shuffled out the kitchen, giving Sonic an odd smile before she left. He knew her well enough to know that gesture was her way of 'asking' the hero to make the first move.

Sonic got up from his seat at the table and made his way over to Shadow, deciding to take Amy's advice. He was unsure what kind of mood the guy was in but it didn't hurt to start of with a friendly greeting. The hero held out his hand to Shadow, his classic grin shining on his face.

"Hey Shads, how ya been? Long time no see, yeah?"

Red eyes glanced at the hand with an unreadable expression, the dark hedgehog choosing to shake out his fur instead. Sonic winced as water droplets splashed in his face, taking it as a sign that his friendly gesture probably wasn't welcome. He lowered his arm and smiled sheepishly as Shadow squeezed the water out of his quills.

"Sorry," Shadow said quickly, wiping his hands off on his white chest.

"Uh, its alright. Its raining pretty hard, why didn't you just Chaos control over here?"

"I did."

Blue brows knitted together in confusion. Why was he so drenched if he just teleported here? Was he standing outside waiting? That would definitely explain how he knocked on the door exactly at 8pm...

"Well, it's good to see you, Shads."

Shadow blinked momentarily, looking as if he had forgotten something. He reached out and took Sonic's hand, giving it a firm yet slightly awkward shake.

"Likewise, Hedgehog."

"Uh--"

"Your handshake from earlier. I was returning it."

Sonic couldn't help himself and doubled over as he exploded in a hysterical laughter. The ultimate life form snatched his had away and jumped back, started and confused by the hero's unusual reaction. Sonic gasped and wiped a tear from his eye, trying to calm himself down once Shadow's confusion morphed into irritation.

"I-I'm sorry, heh...It's just...you're so weird."

Black ears flattened at the comment, followed by a low menacing growl rising in Shadow's throat.

"Excuse me?"

"No! No...I mean that in a good way. I missed it."

"You missed it?"

The hero nodded and chuckled breathlessly, placing a gloved hand on Shadow's shoulder. All the tension and anxiety from before disappeared in the blink of an eye now that his rival was actually here, and seemed just as lost about all of this as he was.

"Yeah. I really did."

 

Sonic rolled over and snuggled into Shadow's side, listening to the steady rhythm of the dark hedgehog's heartbeat as he slept. It was late in the afternoon by the time the hero had woken up in Rouge's spare bedroom, lazy streams of sunlight filtering through the sheer window curtains. Shadow had come upstairs earlier in the day while Sonic was asleep and sprawled out on the bed beside him. The blue hedgehog had been awake for some time simply scrolling through his news feed on Shadow's phone-- his own phone busted from the explosion-- and watching his rival's serene sleeping face.

Thoughts of the day Amy reunited them floated around in his mind even now, and Sonic couldn't believe how much he still cherished that cold, wet, awkward handshake.The excitement, anticipation, nervous chuckles, even Amy's constant cooing and squealing had turned that day into his most cherished memory.

Well, maybe his second.

Green hooded eyes drifted toward the sleeping hedgehog beside him, his intense gaze roaming Shadow's form and settling on fawn parted lips. He blushed.

The kiss at the hotel...they haven't talked about it yet.

Sonic knew deep down that if Vector hadn't interrupted them, he probably would have taken the dark hedgehog right then and there. He originally planned to just tease him, and pull away immediately after his lips ghosted teasingly across Shadow's own. However it was clear the blue hedgehog had poked the bear one too many times, and all the sexy photoshoot did was send the starved beast into a ravenous frenzy.

And that night, Sonic wanted to be the full-course meal.

Now as they laid together in a cluster of fluffy pillows and silken blankets, all thoughts of being eaten alive were temporarily cast aside, the 'ravenous beast' in question a million miles away and grumbling softly in his sleep. Sonic leaned in, planting a gentle kiss on Shadow's cheek, the warmth alone was almost enough to satisfy the blue hedgehog's yearn for attention. Almost.

"Shads, wake up." He whispered, nuzzling his groggy rival affectionately. A low grumble rose in Shadow's throat as tired red eyes met Sonic's with an irritated glare.

"What is it?"

"Nothin'. Just wanted you to be awake with me."

"Chaos, you're..." He was too tired to think of a proper insult, opting to tug roughly a blue ear instead. Sonic chuckled and pulled away, giving Shadow room to retrieve his cellphone from the hero's lap.

"Anyway, you were right to wake me, hedgehog. We ended up sleeping much later than anticipated; it's already 5pm. We should get moving."

"But I'm so comfortable...can't we go tomorrow? Maybe chill for a bit after all that mess with Fang?"

"If anything that business with Fang is a good enough reason to get going. The last thing we need are annoyances like him tailing us on our trip. However, since we started it late and missed most of the Grand Prix, it would be wise to keep moving in case there are more time sensitive events Amy planned for us."

Sonic groaned, shoving his face into fluffy white chest fur in an attempt to shut out the rest of the world.

"Ughhh...I hate it when you're right."

"Come on." Shadow insisted patting his shoulder affectionately.

"Alright, alright. I'm gettin' up." The hero replied, swinging blue legs quickly over the side of the bed. He perked up a bit, noticing that something small fluttered out of the blankets onto the floor. It was the pink charred fabric left over from his varsity jacket the night before. As he leaned over to pick it up Shadow eyed him curiously, glancing at the fabric in his hand before he spoke.

"Are you alright?"

"I'm fine, why?" Sonic said cheerfully, tucking the fabric away into his shoe. He figured it would be the easiest way not to lose it.

"It's just...well yesterday you were kind of...upset--"

"I was just tired Shads, forget all that." He said quickly, green eyes averting Shadow's suspicious red gaze.

"You even said I was beating myself up for nothing. I was just aggravated, you know? I did just survive getting blown up after all." Sonic shoved an ungloved hand into Shadow's quills and nearly knocked the ultimate life form off of the bed in his haste to pull out Amy's notebook.

"Where are we goin' next anyway?"

Sonic opened the book and flipped through the pages, trying his hardest to look busy. Shadow decided to leave the topic alone for now and humor the blue hedgehog for the time being. They had plenty of time to talk later, and he wasn't in the mood to argue again right now.

"I haven't checked yet, I was waiting for you." he replied straightening his quills back into place.

"Oh it's...! No wait, thought I knew this one. I don't get this."

"What is it?"

A sheepish grin made its way onto Sonic's face as he picked up the book and handed it to Shadow, watching his rival's face intently for an answer. The dark hedgehog ignored him and focused his attention on the Tarot card instead, titled 'Two of Cups'. The image on the card had a man and a woman exchanging cups with one another. Above them was an emblem of two winged snakes winding together, with the head of a red winged lion at the very top. below the card were the words 'Spagonia University/Windmill Isle' in Amy's neat handwriting, the lowercase 'i's dotted with hearts in bright pink ink.

Shadow was suspicious of the implications those hearts, but lifted up the card regardless. Written underneath were the words:

'Attraction, Partnership, Unified love, Relationships'

An uncomfortable heat rose into his cheeks, suddenly realizing the drastic direction this trip was taking. Sonic leaned over to glance at the notebook page, a sly grin making its way onto his peach muzzle.

"Oooh sounds like a classic romantic getaway, don't ya think, Shads?"

"It appears that way, yes."

"And in Spagonia of all places! Oh you'll love it man, it's so cool."

"I'll admit I haven't been to Spagonia yet for a mission, so I will take your word for it." Shadow closed the notebook and tucked it back into his quills for safe keeping.

"Aw don't you boys look so cute together?" Rouge called, leaning in the bedroom doorway. The bat was wearing a simple blue robe holding a coffee cup close to her chest.

"You look pretty cozy yourself. Doesn't your club open around this time?" Sonic asked stretching casually.

"I'm keeping it closed today. Figured I'd chill here and relax for a day before going back to see my favorite grumpy man."

"Shadow?"

"Knuckles."

"Ah."

"Well, this has been a decent time, but we should get going before you involve us in another convoluted caper." Shadow sighed and reached into his quills for the green Chaos emerald. His eyes went wide for a moment, realizing that the gem was no longer there.

"I got it, remember?" The hero pulled the emerald out, briefly tossing it up in the air before catching it with a cheeky smile.

"Don't worry, I'll get us there in no time."

The dark hedgehog frowned, reaching out to take the green gem from his rival.

"I don't like the idea of you being in possession of the emerald considering your track record of being reckless."

Sonic grinned, pulling the emerald further away from Shadow's reach.

"What's the worst that could happen if I have it for a second?"

"We could die."

"Sheesh, ye of little faith. Fine, I'll give it right back when I'm done okay, babe?" He punctuated his sentence with a playful flick of Shadow's nose, the ultimate life form growling softly in reply. As much as he wanted to be annoyed with the blue hedgehog right now, Sonic's bright smile and goofy pet name were making it difficult. Shadow relented and crossed his arms, trying to hide a smirk that threatened to creep onto his muzzle.

"You better."

With a quick wink and a flash of light, the hero suddenly disappeared, taking his dark rival with him. Rouge squinted at the brightness, smiling into her coffee at her moody colleague's unusually playful behavior with the blue hedgehog. She made note of the fact that Shadow had not said goodbye, but given how preoccupied he was, she didn't really mind.

"So, mr. doom and gloom can actually smile too, huh? Who would have thought?"

 

Shadow was not use to letting someone else take the wheel when using Chaos control, and the ultimate life form stumbled a bit once they reached their destination. Sonic reached out, quickly grabbing his rival's arm and pulling him back upright on the rooftop.

"S-Sorry...!" he yelped.

"Not even ten seconds have passed and You've almost killed me." Shadow growled snatching his arm away from the hero.

"I guess solid ground probably would have been a better choice, eh?" Sonic gestured in front of them, eyes sparkling in anticipation. Shadow straighted up slowly and followed the blue hedgehog's gaze.

"Though I really wanted you to get a good view of this."

Hundreds of red tiled roofs stretched out before them, grey bricked streets and watery canals weaving in between the sandy colored houses. Large arch doorways were carved neatly into the buildings, each unique yet still blending in flawlessly with the structures around them. Green vines covered spindly gates and walls, a lovely contrast to the warm reds and subtle browns. From delicate stained glass windows to over arching aqueducts, Spagonia exuded a refined taste in every detail of its impressive architecture. In the center of town stood an enormous clocktower, its large shadow looming over the two hedgehogs from their position.

"So...what do ya think? Do you like it?" Sonic asked nudging his rival playfully.

"Its beautiful," Shadow replied as he shifted into a sitting position on the rooftop.

"I'm a tad upset that I never had any missions out here."

"I'm not, because that starstruck look on your face was priceless."

"Hm. We're supposed to go to Spagonia University first, correct? Any idea which direction the school might be in?"

The hero stuck his arm out in front of him with a 'thumbs up' and tilted it sideways, eyeing the clocktower carefully. Shadow assumed it was an attempt to map out their location, though he couldn't fathom what measurements Sonic was using to do so.

"That way!" he exclaimed pointing somewhere beyond the clocktower. The hero jumped down suddenly and sped off, barely giving the ultimate life form time to process what direction they were going. He shrugged and jumped down from the roof, putting on an extra burst of speed to catch up to him. It was difficult navigating the narrow streets of the city, and even harder to avoid running over citizens, but Shadow eventually spotted the hero's familiar blue blur further ahead. Sonic had slowed to a leisurely jog in a open space, pausing momentarily for the dark hedgehog to catch up.

"Hurry up, gramps, its over here!" he called once he was certain Shadow was within earshot, earning the hero a stern glare once he had arrived.

"Enough with the elderly jokes, Faker. They're getting old."

"Older than y--"

"Stop."

Sonic snickered but dropped the subject and pointed behind himself to a large building in the center of the open area. Tall pillars stood at the entrance of the university and a round hawk shaped water fountain sprayed in the the front yard. Shadow noticed the area was quite populated, young humans lounging in the grass or sitting at outdoor tables nearby.

A few curious glances were thrown their way, the ultimate life form quickly noticing they were the only mobians on campus. Sonic seemed to notice this as well and greeted students with finger guns and cheeky smiles, his familiar face instantly putting them at ease. Somewhere far off Shadow heard a flirtatious giggle from a group of girls as Sonic winked at them, and the dark hedgehog had to remind himself that murdering college kids probably was not the best way to start off his visit in Spagonia.

"Hey! Hey, excuse me miss?" Sonic called flagging down an older woman walking out of the front doors. Her eyes brightened in that familiar way every citizen's did when seeing the one and only blue blur, and somehow Shadow found it more annoying than usual. Sonic glanced in his direction with a curious look, and the ultimate life form realized he had forgotten about their new Chaos energy connection. Fortunately, the woman came over before the hero could ask any questions.

"My, i-it's so wonderful to see you, Sonic the Hedgehog!" she grinned, pulling her research papers in one arm, extending the other for a handshake. The hero obliged and inclined his head toward the dark hedgehog beside him.

"Nice to meet ya, Miss! This is my buddy Shads --er-- Shadow. He's not much of a handshaker. Hey, if its not too much trouble do you mind directing us to Professor Pickle's study? Its been ages, so I kind of forgot where it is, ya know?"

The woman shook her head quickly giving the hero a tight lipped smile.

"Oh, I'm sorry, Mr. Sonic but that is no longer his study anymore. We named it after him though."

Green eyes slowly clouded over, his winning smile faltering if only for a second. Shadow could feel a strange, creeping sensation radiating from the hero's Chaos energy, quickly dimming its normally warm and lively rhythm.

"Oh, that's a shame." Sonic replied.

"Oh? Oh no! Goodness no, I just meant that he's retired!" The woman sputtered, raising a hand to her mouth in embarrassment.

"I'm so sorry about that. He's in the main library nowadays, that dedicated old man. I suppose you never stop doing what you love, right? You should find it to your left when you first walk in."

"Oh no worries, thanks so much, ma'am!" The blue hedgehog dashed inside, nearly scattering the woman's papers in the process. Shadow gave her a chilling sideways glance before following after him.

"Sooo, real quick," Sonic piped up, stretching his arms casually as they walked into the large building.

"you wanna talk about what your deal was back there?"

"Only if you want to talk about yours." Shadow replied tersely.

The hero shrugged, pausing for a moment in front of the large wooden doors of the library wing.

"Welp, this was a productive conversation then, huh?"

"Not any more than usual."

The tone of their banter had an unhealthy air about it that immediately made the ultimate life form want to change the subject. Sonic seemed to feel the same way, opting to open the doors instead of carrying on back and forth as usual. The library was massive, the entire left side and upper floors packed with thousands bookshelves lining the walls. To the right were large filigree windows, rays of gentle sunlight and dust motes settling on the rows of wooden tables and plush chairs in the center of the wing.

"Quite impressive," Shadow remarked as they walked inside, making a mental note to spend some time here by himself in the future.

"I've been meaning to ask, why are we going to see this Professor Pickle person? Assuming you did not make him up of course. The notebook only said to visit the university."

"Nah, I totally didn't make him up I swear," Sonic chuckled.

"That's the man's name. He's this really cool guy that Amy, Tails, and I met a while back, so I figured that's why she sent us to the school specifically. If anyone knows why she sent us here, he would. By the way, you'll never guess what his favorite food is."

"Uh...Pickles...?"

"Cucumber sandwiches."

"Chaos."

"Oh, there he is!" Sonic grabbed Shadow's wrist and led him to the far side of the wing, to a thin figure settled into a large green chair. The professor hadn't changed a bit since Sonic had last seen him; Pickle's wiry frame, large nose, and bushy eyebrows were incredibly hard to miss. The elderly man was snoring loudly in the plush chair, a laptop tilted slightly in his lap and foam coffee cup long forgotten on the floor.

"This is...the man?"

"Trust me, I know he doesn't look like it but Pickle's a genius. He and Tails clicked like crazy and to this day, my bro buys every book this guy writes." Sonic tapped lightly on the Professor's shoulder, trying his best not to startle him.

"Hey...? Professor Pickle? Its your favorite hedgehog!"

The elderly man awoke with a loud snort and gasped, looking wildly around the room.

"Oh!--Oh...My goodness, have I fallen asleep again...?"

His eyes (or brows) settled on the hero, blinking momentarily before standing upright from the chair. Shadow leaned over quickly caught the laptop before it fell on the floor in the man's haste.

"Oh, Sonic! It's so good to see you again, boy! It's been ages hasn't it?" He took the hero's hand and shook it eagerly, Sonic returning the enthusiasm and patting Prof. Pickle on the back.

"It's good to see you too! I'm sorry I haven't called or anything since I've been gone."

"Oh, no worries young hero, none at all. Tails and Amy have kept me posted on most happenings since we've met. Goodness, you've grown so much how old are you...18?"

"24, good buddy. It's been a bit longer than that. Just glad you stuck around this long to see me! Haha..."

Sonic immediately regretted his own joke, the morbid topic hitting a little to close to home in light of the events that brought them here. It was silent for a few long moments before the professor decided to speak.

"Ah...and you must be Shadow the Hedgehog, correct? It is such an honor to meet such an impressive hero in person."

Shadow nodded, smirking at the genuine compliment. Being recognized as a 'hero' and not an 'agent' or 'project' by a stranger, particularly a human, was also a welcomed change of pace.

"I'm glad you two arrived when you did. I too have been following your trip online, though I have been invested in it much longer than that."

Shadow blinked.

"You have?"

"Yes, yes, of course. You see, Amy and I kept in touch and after she entered college and I was more than willing to help her prepare and research on occasion in video chats. Heh, Of course, once my colleague Otto told me she had an online blog about tarot cards and fortune telling, I soon became a fan of hers myself!"

The hero chuckled, and shook his head, hardly able to believe Amy and Professor Pickle actually talked for so long. He was aware they worked together for a while during his first time here, but it never occured to him they would have much in common.

"Hah, well I guess that makes sense, all that mystic cultural voodoo is basically your job. Oh, right uh, since you know about our trip, does that mean you know why we were told to come here?"

"Why...? Eh...let's see um..." The man faltered for a bit, scratching his head.

"O-oh yes! How could I forget, Amy had a gift for the two of you."

He reached into his brown vest, pulling out two small cream colored envelopes. Both were sealed with wax rose stamps, one with red wax and the other pink. The pink envelope read 'Now' on the front in Amy's handwriting, and on the red was written 'Later.' He handed both envelopes to the hero, pulling away briefly when Sonic reached for them.

"Now before I hand these to you, Amy told me that you are not, under any circumstances, to open the one marked 'Later' until after your last destination. You can only read the one labeled 'Now.' Understood? We all know how impatient you tend to be..."

Sonic nodded, holding his hand out once more.

"No I totally get it. Shads and I are doing everything by the notebook exactly how she wanted, no worries."

The professor handed the envelopes to him, seeming satisfied with the blue hedgehog's answer. He turned to sit back down in his green chair, looking around absently for the laptop he had earlier.

"Good. Ah, now if you will excuse me, I simply must finish my next book I have been working on lately, my publishers have been quite vocal about the deadline..."

Shadow perked up a bit noticing he still was holding Pickle's laptop. The ultimate lifeform handed it back to him, dark brows creased in confusion.

"Excuse me, Professor, but was that all? Amy sent us out here to simply retrieve two letters from you?"

"Eh...what? Oh goodness no, she intended for the two of you to spend some time in Spagonia for yourselves and enjoy the culture, city of love, and knowledge, and all that. You also have access to the room that was previously my study if you are unable to find a place to room for the evening. Just stop by and let me know if you need it. I will most likely be here working until late with my assistant."

The hero slipped the letters into his head quills, giving the professor a thumbs up in approval.

"Thanks, Pickle! Don't worry about us though, this is Sonic the hedgehog you're talkin' to; nobody's gonna turn me away!"

"Haha, I suppose not. Well then, I do hope the two of you have fun. It was nice to finally meet you, Shadow."

"We will! I'll try to drop by before we leave and say goodbye."

"It was nice to meet you too, Professor." Shadow replied giving a slight nod as the two hedgehogs walked away. Sonic glanced back, watching the elderly man open his laptop eagerly and continue his work.

"Wow, that went well, you seemed pretty happy to meet him, Shads." He drawled once Pickle was out of earshot. The dark hedgehog appeared not to have heard him and Sonic stopped for a few heartbeats, concerned. He cautiously felt around Shadow's chaos energy and the wavelength seemed to normal, only warming during their conversation with the professor.

"Is everything alright?"

"Yes why?"

"Well its just...you seem happy but also...kinda not?"

Shadow shook his head, leaning on the doorframe of the library entrance.

"The professor is a kind, intelligent, man. In many ways, he reminds me of how Doctor Gerald used to be. Very rarely am I treated like a person when I meet new people, especially when my reputation proceeds me."

Sonic smiled warmly, linking a peach arm with the dark hedgehog's as he pulled him gently toward the university doors.

"You know, I always treated you as a person. where's my warm and fuzzy reaction, eh?"

"Hedgehog, we fought when we first met and you barely knew my name."

"Pssshh, that's how all my best friendships started out, shut up."

 

The rest of their day in Spagonia went rather calmly, the two hedgehogs spending their time lounging around in the grassy parks and taking pictures over the city on rooftops. Sonic bugged Shadow to death about climbing the clocktower for a photo, but the ultimate life form refused in fear of damaging it.

The petty argument somehow spiraled into a mix of 'Tag' and 'Hot and Cold', Shadow chasing the annoying hedgehog through the hidden alcoves of the narrow streets. For hours the heroes zipped and zagged though arched pathways and dark alleys, spurred on by nothing more than the thrill of the chase and the chaos energy buzzing wildly between them.

Eventually Shadow forfeited and coaxed Sonic to return, under the pretense of 'getting bored' with the game. However, the blue hero highly suspected that his rival merely grew lonely in the last few hours and missed him. Since it was getting late, they decided to meet up again in front of a small outdoor restaurant for dinner. Shadow had spotted the simple umbrella tables and rose bushes lining the entrance, figuring it would be a nice place to end their afternoon. To Sonic's surprise, Shadow arrived much earlier than he did.

"Wow so the old man finally wins one, eh?"

He commented walked over to the outside tables. The dark hedgehog was already seated and judging from the menus and glasses of water, he had been there for some time.

"I've won more than you care to admit, well all know that--oh, wait."

Shadow stood up and held up a hand, implying he didn't want Sonic to sit down just yet. He pulled a white bag from under the table and placed it on top, rummaging through it before turning back to the hero.

"Come here."

Sonic shrugged and walked over, curious.

"What's up?"

The ultimate life form pulled something dark out of the bag, unfolding the bundle and holding it out for the blue hedgehog to see.

It was a new jacket, a satin jet black varsity with lovely crimson accents, buttons, and sleeves. On the left breast of the jacket was a small stitched patch depicting a beautiful pink rose.

"Shadow..."

"I wanted to replace your previous jacket. The woman at the store insisted the rose patch clashes but...I think its appropriate."

He nudged the hero to open his arms, putting the new jacket on him to see if it fit correctly. Shadow took his time as he buttoned it, pointedly ignoring Sonic's intense gaze until he finished.

"It fits. Good. It looks good."

Sonic wrapped his arms around his rival's neck and kissed him softly, the sensitive touch sending heat throughout Shadow's entire body on contact. He noticed right away it was different from their first one at the casino, which was passionate and relentless. These were small, gentle, chaste kisses, the weight of affection and gratitude evident each time Sonic came back for more. The ultimate life form let out an amused huff at his insistence, gloveless hands holding Shadow's head still and leaving light pecks all over his face. The only sensations registering in Shadow's mind were the softness of peach lips and a curling warmth from the hero's energy enveloping his own.

Sonic broke away first, his emerald eyes glossy and warm as he leaned in nuzzling his face into the dark hedgehog's shoulder.

"Finished already?"

"Yeah. I love it...I love it so much, dude."

"I'm glad you enjoy it," Shadow breathed. His mind was suddenly foggy, that familiar buzz from before making it difficult to focus on anything else beyond the blue hedgehog in front of him. He glanced over his shoulder, silently thankful nobody else was around this late in the day to see them, or witness how completely intoxicated he had become with the hero from just a few kisses.

"However, do me a favor. Please don't blow this one up."

Sonic chuckled, planting one last kiss on Shadow's flushed muzzle.

"No promises."

Chapter Text

It was dark by the time the two hedgehogs made it over to Windmill Isle, barely beating the ominous clouds that loomed over the Apotos coast. Once they arrived, Shadow was pleasantly surprised at the small offshore city and its unusual appearance. The sandy white buildings were simple and geometric, with smooth curved rooftops rounding off the edges. Doors, fences, and window frames were trimmed a dazzling blue, painted with the abundant Lapis Lazuli gems found along the rocky coast. Waterways and fountains were covered in tropical vegetation, the plants adding a lovely accent to the sunny seaside town.

Sonic however, seemed a bit disgruntled by the storm once they arrived at the local inn, complaining that he wanted Shadow to see the beautiful isle in the daytime and without 'this crappy weather'. They had beaten the storm to Apotos, but didn't arrive at the inn until much later and both hedgehogs were soaked to the bone from the relentless rain. The owner thankfully was a good sport and allowed the two hedgehogs to stay in one of her best rooms, given the hotel was rather empty around the Fall season.

The room itself was pretty basic its creamy white walls with blue trim; the signature look of Windmill Isle decor. A blue striped bed sat at the far end of the room, a blue dresser with a Flatscreen above it on the other. The nightstand and side table were covered in local seashells, surrounding azure candles that smelled vaguely like the ocean breeze. Sheer white curtains flowed gently in the balcony entrance, Sonic leaving the glass door open for some air before he went downstairs.

Shadow decided to light a few of the candles and keep the lamps off as he watched TV, much like Sonic had done before back at his apartment. The earthy scent of rainwater and artificial candles were relaxing, and the dark hedgehog could feel himself starting to drift off to sleep.

"Surprise.~" Sonic's voice whispered somewhere above him. Shadow ignored it, opting to go back to sleep, until a sharp fruity scent drifted under his nose. He blinked rapidly and was blinded by an assault of whipped cream, pocky, and little chocolate dipped fruits.

"What's this?"

"It's ice cream, duh."

"Isn't it a little late for ice cream?"

Sonic shrugged and walked over to the balcony, taking small licks of his own sundae as he carried Shadow's with him.

"Fine be that way, but I have room for two of these ya know--"

"The hell you do, give it here." Shadow growled quickly following him and taking the second one for himself. The hero chuckled, knowing all too well how to push his rival's buttons. He leaned on the balcony rails, gazing out over the wet rainy landscape with a wry smile.

"I'm sad you couldn't see this place in the morning, it's beautiful. The white and blue is so bright, and right over the ocean? Just Fantastic!"

"It's alright," Shadow replied, taking a bite out of his ice cream.

"It's still beautiful even at night in a storm."

"Dude, did you just bite that whole thing? You're supposed to lick it, you know that right? Chaos, that can hurt your teeth."

"Biting gets me to the bottom faster. I enjoy the cone far more than the ice cream."

"That's weird. You're weird." Sonic replied, popping one of the strawberries into his mouth. The sundae was starting to melt a little and he didn't want to waste it.

"What compelled you to get ice cream this late?"

"Oh, I wanted to eat it with you. Its called a chocolate chip cream sundae supreme; the best ice cream in Apotos. Chip and I had this exact ice cream cone our first time here."

A foreign, anxious feeling creeped along Sonic's energy.

"Who is Chip?"

"Easy there, Shads, no need to get all hot and bothered by it. Chip was just a friend of mine."

Shadow breathed out slowly and averted his eyes, embarrassment radiating off of him in waves through their bond. He could feel Sonic's Chaos energy bubbling and giddy, seemingly entertained by his rival's unnecessary aggression.

"What happened to him?" Shadow asked softly trying to change the subject.

"Oh well...you know when the planet broke? For like...a few days?"

"That was you?" The ultimate life form shook his head in disbelief.

"Chaos, what am I saying, of course it was you. Continue."

"Heh, yeah it was yours truly. Anyway, it turns out Eggman woke up these two gods Light and Dark Gaia, and Chip was the Light one. But before that, I just called him Chip. He helped me out when I got turned into a werehog--"

"You what."

"Long story short, he was my friend, but he had to go back to where he belonged. Though we had a good time, coming to Apotos always made me kinda sad? I guess I didn't want to get bummed out when I came here so I was really hoping when I brought you it was nice and sunny."

The blue hedgehog shrugged slightly, finishing the last of his sundae. He realized Shadow was done a long time ago and suddenly became self conscious that he had been talking a little too long.

"I dunno, I guess I'm weird."

"Why do you say that in a bad way? Yet when you refer to me, you say 'weird' fondly?" Shadow asked resting on the balcony beside him.

"Because you're 'weird' as in quirky." Sonic said leaning in and kissing Shadow's cheek playfully.

"The stuff you do is so cute and awkward and you don't even notice, and it cracks me up. I like that part of you."

"Um. Thanks?" The dark hedgehog replied, an annoyed grimace flashing briefly on his face. He looked up at the dark clouds as lightning flashed by, feeling an odd sense of calm despite the harsh weather.

"...but the things you feel are normal for everyone. Why do you act as if missing someone, or being sad is unusual?"

"I'm just not comfortable with it, I guess." Sonic replied dryly, lifting away from Shadow's shoulder and trudging back into the bedroom. He sat on the mattress and flopped back on the bed, letting out a loud frustrated sign.

Shadow shook his head and sat on the bed beside him, taking the hint that the blue hedgehog was not in the mood to dwell on his emotions about loss right now. He leaned back, laying on Sonic's leg and staring up at the ceiling.

"We should take a look at that letter now that we have some time to relax."

"Oh! I hope they didn't get wet from the rain, crap..." Sonic replied sitting up quickly and reaching into his head quills. He pulled out the letters gingerly, both of them mostly dry aside from a few wet dried spots of rain. He placed the 'Later' one back into his quills, and tossed the other to Shadow.

"It should be okay, it wasn't wet, thank goodness."

"You don't want to read it?"

"I get nervous reading out loud because I'm kinda bad at it," Sonic smiled shyly.

"Plus I love it when you talk to me, you sound so sexy.~"

"Please, shut up." Shadow scoffed as he unfolded the envelope slowly. The hero nodded and crossed his legs, a goofy eager look on his face that the ultimate life form pointedly tried to ignore as he focused on the letter.

'Dear Sonic and Shadow,

So you made it this far huh? I'm so glad! I hope you've made a lot of memories along the way, and it warms my heart that the two of you can bond without me having to tug you along and twist your arms. I look forward to you two doing so much together long after I'm gone.

Prof. Pickle told me something the day that Chip and Sonic saved the planet from Dark Gaia. He said that Dark and Light coexist and one can't exist without the other. That the will of the planet very well may exist on this principle. Of course, when I was younger I didn't fully understand the weight of his words. However, as time went on between the three of us I slowly began to understand.

There is always someone out there for someone else; someone's piece of the puzzle, the dark to their light, you know? It was never clearer to me then when we met Shadow. Sonic's Dark had finally arrived and the universe was telling me what I needed to do.You two are the most powerful beings in the world; so similar yet so different, but also equal and pick up where the other lacks.

Sonic is bright, loving and fun but can be such a blockhead sometimes. Shadow is intelligent, thoughtful, and loyal, but can be really abrasive and distrustful. However together you guys just click in a way that makes the whole world make sense when nothing else does. No matter what fate has in store for me, I'll know that I put the world in balance by uniting its greatest heroes. There is always light after the dark, and I know you two will be there to shine brightly together.

Now pick yourselves up and stop your crying; this adventure is not over yet!

-Amy Rose'

Shadow narrowed his eyes thoughtfully, as if he was having trouble understanding what he read.

"Is something wrong, Shads?" Sonic asked, now inches away from the dark hedgehog on the bed.

"No, nothing." He said dismissively.

"The letter was just...unexpectedly sweet."

The hero smiled and nodded, cuddling up to his rival and letting out a tired yawn.

"I never knew Amy and Pickle had that talk together...but I think it's incredible that she thinks so highly of us like that. I don't feel like I deserve her praise sometimes, she really was...such an amazing person."

"Yes..." Shadow replied solemnly.

"She really was."

It was quiet between the two of them for some time, nothing but the soft sounds of the television and pattering rain from the thunderstorm. Sonic was feeling a little lonely, leaning into his rival's shoulder trying to get his attention. Shadow seemed a million miles away as his Chaos energy buzzed with rampant anxiety.

"Are you sure you're alright? You seem kinda distracted."

"Sorry, I'm fine. The letter just brought up some unexpected feelings."

"Wanna talk about 'em?"

The dark hedgehog shook his head and came in close, his fawn muzzle brushing against the hero's briefly before planting a kiss on his cheek. Sonic chuckled and flinched away, rubbing the spot tenderly.

"That's new, you making the first move. You feelin' frisky or what?"

Shadow wrapped his arms around Sonic's waist, burying his nose into the blue hedgehog's shoulder. His breath hitched at the intimate contact, warmth pouring over his neck as the ultimate life form spoke in a low, husky whisper.

"It's a shame that your phone was destroyed. Would you like to take some more pictures?"

 

Sonic nudged strong black legs apart with his knee, trying to angle the camera phone in just the right way before taking the shot. The hero had Shadow positioned spread eagle on the bed, arms high above his head like before. He frowned slightly, putting the device down and reaching over Shadow to tug on his gloves. The dark hedgehog balled his fists immediately when he felt the fabric begin to slip away.

"Take these off for me, okay?"

"I'd prefer to keep them on, actually."

"You took them off in bed when we were in Sand Ruins, didn't you? I wanna take a picture of you totally bare. Plus I lost mine in the explosion, so its only fair."

Shadow sucked his teeth, slowly uncurling his fists and allowing his rival to work a glove from underneath the inhibitor rings. A light gasp sounded above him and the ultimate life form winced at the sound, fearing the worst. Sonic held Shadow's hand up curiously and examined the large dark claws on each finger. They were long and neatly tapered, but each of them dangerous sharp.

"I apologize."

"For what?" The hero asked, poking a claw delicately.

"My hands are rather unkempt. I know most of our kind have short cut nails but I am unable to control the length of mine for very long. Possibly a trait of the black arms. I've been told its not very attractive, if not frightening--!"

He jerked his hand suddenly, Sonic's soft lips pressed carefully against his knuckle.

"It's hot," The blue hedgehog replied breathlessly, uncurling black claws and rubbing a thumb across the smooth shiny surface. Emerald eyes were dark with a strange, hungry look that both intrigued and terrified the ultimate life form.

And then a pink tongue darted out quickly to lick his index finger and Shadow nearly lost his mind.

"Anyway," Sonic drawled, releasing the ungloved hand. He straddled Shadow's chest and reached for the arm still stretched up toward the headboard.

"let's get the other one off, huh?"

As soon as the hero began to tug the glove away, strong sharp claws dragged down his left side, raking intently through blue fur. Shadow was pulling him down, nuzzling and kissing anything he could touch in this position.

"Hold on big guy, just let me finish-- Oh!"

Sonic gasped as he felt wet, hot bites along his torso, the dangerous prick of canines sending a thrill down his spine. Eventually he relented and sat down on Shadow's lap, letting the ultimate life form kiss and squeeze and bite as much as he pleased.

Shadow glanced up at his rival in between bites, relishing the satisfied, glazed look in his eyes looking down at him. Warmth radiated from the blue hedgehog's chaos energy, making it difficult for Shadow to stop. He nipped softly above the hero's navel before speaking for a moment, his voice ragged and deep.

"Yes? May I help you?"

"Chaos, you're killin' me, Shads."

"Hmn. You can't straddle me and assume I would let you get out of it unscathed, Hedgehog."

Sonic leaned down, tilting his head and kissing fawn lips eagerly, letting out a pleased purr when a warm tongue slipped out to greet him. He opened his mouth drowning in the sensation of those sharp canines biting harshly his lip, the metallic taste of fresh blood making its way into this kiss.

He broke away quickly, trying desperately to catch his breath. Sonic eyed Shadow's mouth, eyes blown wide at the sight of his rival's tongue swiping over fawn lips to lick the remaining blood. He tried his best to keep up his end of the banter, but Sonic was getting restless.

"You know nothing's worth doing without a little bruising, Shads."

He reached down slowly, bare peach hands rubbing and squeezing at the taught muscles below him, ghosting over Shadow's groin and nudging a prominent black sheath gingerly. A restrained grunt sounded beneath him, dark nails threatening to break the skin underneath Sonic's blue fur.

"Wait..." Shadow managed to get out before Sonic could go any further.

"How are we...doing this?"

The blue hedgehog tilted his head, seeming confused that Shadow brought it up.

"Well...you know."

"I know what?"

"I just assumed it would be you at the bottom."

"Excuse me?" Shadow sputtered, closing his legs indignantly.

"Well I know you said you and Rouge fooled around but you never actually did it, meanwhile I've had a girlfriend or two in the past, and I've already done it. I mean, never with a guy, but you know."

"Uh-huh. And how does that factor into me automatically being bottom?"

"Pssh, well it wasn't gonna be me, I'm the hero, and you're the...virgin...? Hey, hey whoa-- hey, time out!"

Sonic flailed as Shadow pushed him roughly onto his back and pinned him to the mattress, a clawed hand grasping at his throat. Hot crimson eyes bore into green, a combination of lust and fury boiling behind them.

"Is that how you saw this...?" Shadow drawled lowly, tightening his grip on the hero's neck.

"Well, not exact--hngh!" Sonic whined, the deadly prick of black claws raking his exposed chest, leaving flushed red marks in their wake. The hero bucked involuntarily under his rival's grip, his cocky grin from before dissolving into a strained blushing mess. The ultimate life form leaned in close with a disinterested expression at Sonic's struggling. Blue hips jerked at the sudden heat, Shadow's groin grinding slow and rough against his own.

Sonic would never admit it, especially not now, but he was actually thrilled at the idea of Shadow looming over him, pounding him into the mattress, finally feeling that raw power the ultimate life form barely restrained every time they fought. The angrier the Shadow was with him, the more dangerous he became.

And Sonic knew all too well how to push Shadow's buttons.

"H-how about I let you top this time, since you haven't before, okay? But in return, you let me have some fun working up to it?" Sonic said quickly, pressing a hand pleadingly against the dark hedgehog's chest.

"After all, we have to prepare all the way to that, don't we?"

Shadow nodded slowly, relaxing his grip on his rival's neck by a fraction but not letting go.

"Alright," he growled.

"But if you try anything funny, I will end your ass. Literally."

Sonic lifted a knee, stroking it down the dark hedgehog's side lovingly.

"Sure, sure, I get it. Now, let me up a little bit would ya, babe?"

It took a few seconds but Shadow released his neck, eyeing the blue hero suspiciously. Sonic stretched his limbs and nudged his rival onto his back again, their eyes locked on one another the whole time. He ran a hand over the dark hedgehog's groin and broke eye contact if only for a moment, giving the hero a chance to relish in a triumphant smirk.

The ultimate life form was lying on his back, head propped up on one hand and staring at the hero with distrustful, hooded eyes. A dark blush across his muzzle and the erratic buzzing of chaos energy were the only indications that Shadow's deadly gaze held any lust behind it.

Sonic sunk down in between Shadow's legs and began rubbing small circles over the black sheath, feeling the growing erection inside. Impatient as ever, he wasted no time and licked intently at the entrance, causing black inner thighs to jump at the contact. A low husky grown escaped Shadow's lips followed by a few muffled curses that were music to the blue hedgehog's ears.

Agonizingly slow, he lapped at the black pouch, sucking and biting the sensitive flesh until Shadow's fur was damp and slick. Sonic was intent on getting his mouth around the dark hedgehog's cock if his life depended on it. A delighted purr rose in his chest once he spotted the wet tip inching its way out, shiny and practically dripping with precum. Sonic pressed further down on the sheath to slide it all out, Shadow's length bouncing a little at the motion.

The ultimate life form hissed as his dick hit the cold air, gripping the sheets roughly underneath him. Sonic took a moment to relish his rival's frustration as a smug grin made its way onto his face.

"You know, its funny..." Sonic began, thumbing the underside of Shadow's length absently.

"I thought this would suck-- haha-- but I'm enjoying the hell out of myself down here."

"Then why are you talking?" Shadow growled.

"Because I love seeing that look on your face..." He licked a stripe up the side of his cock and Shadow clenched his teeth, restraining a moan threatening to rise in his throat.

"There it is."

"Hedgehog, I swear to Chaos--!"

"Alright, alright..." The hero grinned settling himself back down in between Shadow's legs. He took a second to size up the organ before wrapping his lips around the tip and sliding down as far as he could go.

Suddenly everything was a lot different.

There was a constant insistent tingling flowing through Sonic's senses at the contact; a warm, erotic back loop from Shadow's arousal leaking into his own. The hero twisted his head a little, hearing his rival's moans and huffs vary with every movement he made. Chaos energy bounced around in his head like a pinball, the blue hedgehog unable to think or feel anything beyond his partner's lust unwinding and filling every inch of his body. His senses were alive more than they ever had been before, Shadow's natural spicy scent wreathing around him and clouding his senses. Sonic began to speed up, chasing that feeling every time it faded or drifted away. Blue ears perked up at the feeling of sharp claws grabbing at his head and something in the back of the hero's mind niggled at him to stop, but Sonic was relentless. Black legs twitched around his head, bucking up into his mouth trying to go further into that warm heat. Broken moans dissolving into primal growls were egging the hero on and Sonic was never one to disappoint, moaning and making lewd, sloppy noises each time he came back up.

The grip on his head suddenly became tighter, Shadow's moans desperately trying to form something coherent in time. However Sonic was hardly paying attention to the warning signs before hot, thick liquid spurted into the back of his throat. His first reaction was to pull away at the taste, but the explosion of chaos energy drew him in immediately, raw and raking through his body like thousands of deadly claws pulling at blue fur, the rough feeling of his partner unintentionally pushing himself further down Sonic's throat in his orgasm and hero swirling his tongue around the length in appreciation.

Shadow slumped back down on the bed, his body wired and exhausted as he gasped in short labored breaths. Sonic sat still for a few heartbeats, relishing in the last remaining sparks of chaos energy before carefully sliding his lips off of Shadows cock and swallowing down the rest of his release.

"Sorry..." Shadow whispered, throwing an arm over his face in exhaustion.

"S'okay..." Sonic slurred, peppering his partner's inner thighs with kisses. The onslaught of Shadow's wavelength made the hero sluggish and fuzzy, and he suddenly understood why the dark hedgehog loved basking in his own energy so much when Sonic was excited; the experience was intoxicating.

"Wanna do it again...?"

Shadow slowly propped himself on his elbows and shook his head, giving the hero a tired, mischievous smirk.

"If I recall correctly...we had an agreement."

Sonic froze.

"Faker."

"..."

"Faker~"

Sonic scrambled off the bed quickly but Shadow was faster, anticipating his partner's mad dash for the hotel door. The hero's mind was still foggy and Shadow managed to grab him by the waist, pulling him back onto the bed. Sonic struggled a bit but eventually stopped, pouting like a child as the dark hedgehog nuzzled lovingly into his shoulder.

"...Cheater."

"Hardly. You were just too slow. Dining and dashing isn't very becoming of a hero."

"C'mon, you had fun right?" Sonic chuckled shifting in the dark hedgehog's grasp.

"So you should be cool for toni--ugh!"

Sonic grit his teeth, feeling a warm hand wrap around his exposed member and giving it a slight squeeze. The hero had no idea when he had dropped down or how long he'd been out, but he knew telling his rival he wasn't in the mood anymore was out of the question.

"You're still hard." Shadow drawled in his ear. The blue hedgehog stifled a groan and crossed his arms, huffing in frustration. He eased off of Sonic's groin and moved a hand to his chest instead, stroking the peach fur tenderly.

"If you really don't want to do this, we don't have to." Shadow said planting a kiss on his temple.

"What? No way, I totally do! I just...ugh...It's gonna hurt before it feels good."

"Hmm. I thought you liked pain."

"I like exciting pain, stuff that hurts in the heat of the moment, like fights or jumping out of airships, ya know?"

"Well, we can make sure that it doesn't hurt as much, can't we?" Shadow replied as he released the blue hero. He reached back and pulled a small pink bottle from black head quills and waved it slightly in front of Sonic's face.

"You had lube this whole time?"

"Yes. It apparently heats up with friction."

The hero eyed him over his shoulder in disbelief.

"And how long have you had this?"

"Don't get the wrong idea. I didn't plan on using it. Rouge gave it to me when we were at her club, and the bat wouldn't let me leave without it."

"Well, let her know my ass says 'thank you.' " Sonic chuckled.

"Though, um, I think I should do the preparing myself. Wouldn't want you stabbing me in the asshole with those daggers of yours."

"How crude," Shadow replied dryly. Though the hedgehog made a good point; his long black claws weren't exactly bedroom friendly. He rummaged around in the nightstand nearby, looking for something to cut them with. Black ears tilted at the loud 'pop' of a plastic cap, Sonic opening the lube bottle carefully.

Shadow sighed in relief finding a pair of nail clippers in the drawer; he was afraid that he would have to bite his nails down and the dark hedgehog was certain that wouldn't be very attractive.

"This smells kinda nice," Sonic said cheerfully, nosing the pink bottle.

"sorta like cherries?"

"Don't smell it, Chaos..."

"I was curious!"

"Just...get to work. It would do you some good to start opening yourself a little to get use to the feeling before I start." Shadow began idly clipping his claws, watching the hero fiddle with the bottle of lube, and pour a small amount onto his hand.

"Well this is romantic ain't it?"Sonic pipped up, rubbing his fingers together with the clear sticky fluid.

"Clipping your nails and watching me stick my fingers up my ass."

"You're wasting time being cheeky before I finish, hedgehog..."

"Yeah, yeah..."

The hero sat across from Shadow and leaned back, spreading his legs obscenely wide with everything on display. Carefully, he reached down, delicate fingers spreading blue cheeks slowly and pushing at the tight ring of muscles. He flinched and recoiled at the unusual tingle of the heated lube as it burned lightly on the sensitive area. Sonic managed to get a finger in, closing his eyes as he gingerly prodded deeper in the compromising position. He huffed in frustration at the feeling that there was something just beyond his reach. Suddenly he was aware the room was too quiet and chanced a glance up at his rival.

Shadow was eating up the performance, his crimson eyes dilated and dangerously watching the blue hero's every move. He was on his knees now, a hand inching forward towards blue legs but only slightly, waiting for his partner's gaze to meet his own.

Sonic opened his legs a little more and winced at the empty feeling as he slid his fingers out. He glanced at Shadow's hands, making sure the dark hedgehog actually prepared himself before they got started.

"You uh, clipped your nails right?"

"Of course."

"Why did you clip all of them on one hand?"

"Call me optimistic," Shadow replied stroking a blue thigh, leaning in for a quick peck on Sonic's flushed muzzle.

"Besides, you seem to be able to fit your own head up there with no trouble at all."

"Oh hah hah, gramps."

The ultimate life form poked Sonic's chest lightly, gesturing for him to lie down on his back. The hero obliged and watched carefully as his rival shifted into a sitting position pulling him closer until his hips were in Shadow's lap. It was quiet for a few seconds, the loud clack of the lube bottle closing sending Sonic's heart rate skyrocketing.

"Hold still, alright?"

"Gotcha."

Shadow's finger slipped in a lot quicker than Sonic anticipated, blue hips pulling away at the contact. Shadow had a firm grip on his side and held the hero in place, his finger following the motion and pushing a bit further inside. The warm friction of the lube numbed some of the discomfort and leaked out around Sonic's pucker, making it easier for his rival to slide in a second digit with little effort.

The blue hedgehog hissed at the sensation, Shadow's fingers spreading him wide as fluid slipped in and out, making the faintest 'squish' each time they pushed in deeper. Suddenly the ultimate life form's rhythm became erratic, stroking at odd angles and prodding around aimlessly. Sonic glanced down at his rival, the dark hedgehog's brows knitted together in complete focus on the task at hand.

"H-hey Shads? Babe...? I don't wanna tell you how to do your job but...what are ya doin' down there?"

"Does it hurt?" Shadow asked, not bothering to look up.

"Not all that much, but you're--Ah!" Sonic's entire body flinched up and away from Shadow's lap, his chaos energy spiking so high the ultimate life form immediately panicked, unable to tell if the reaction was pain or surprise. It sent shivers up his spine as it dissipated, the feeling drifting away as Sonic's whole body began to relax in his grip.

"Shit..." The hero cursed through clenched teeth. To Shadow's relief, his wavelength oozed pleasure and warmth after the initial shock, a wry smile spreading across Sonic's flushed face.

"So that's what you were up to..."

"This," Shadow started, punctuating with another stroke on the sensitive bundle of nerves.

"should make things a little more interesting."

Sonic chuckled weakly as glazed emerald eyes turned up at the ceiling, anticipation and curiosity tingled at the fringe of his Chaos energy. He had never imagined the two of them would end up in this situation and now that it was happening he couldn't help but smile at the strangeness of it all and the fuzzy feelings seeping into his skin.

Shadow tilted his head, confused at the hero's unusually tender emotions flowing through their bond. He leaned down, kissing peach lips to get Sonic's attention and make sure he was still with him.

"Is everything alright?"

"It's great, man. I'm just excited."

Shadow smirked and leaned back again, adjusting his hold on Sonic's leg.

"Well, I better not keep you waiting then, yes?"

 

Sonic was loosing his mind.

The hero gripped the sheets underneath him for dear life, panting heavily as Shadow's fingers thrusted into his hole, stretching in a strange loop of pain and pleasure, black digits going even deeper each time. He was relentless, assaulting that tender sweet spot over and over again, Sonic's entire body shaking with the motion. The ultimate life form gazed intently into foggy emerald eyes, soaking up his rival melting into a puddle beneath him. Eventually he slowed down the pace, opting instead to slowly curl his fingers over the tender area before pulling all the way out.

"Sssss...Fuck...!" Sonic hissed through clenched teeth.

"Hmn...so you like this, huh?"

The blue hedgehog reached down to stroke himself but Shadow grabbed his hand and pulled it high above him on the bed to join the other, pinning both arms in place.

"Ah, no. I can't let you finish before we get to the main event, hedgehog."

"Oh, you bitch," Sonic replied with a strained smile. He shifted in Shadow's hold to get comfortable, but made no attempt to escape. The hero blew a kiss and batted his eyes mockingly.

"C'moooooon why you gotta make a poor guy suffer, huh? Don't you like me? Just give me something, anything..."

"Well, since you asked so nicely..." Shadow pulled Sonic's hips away from him slowly, lining his groin up in between his legs. The dark hedgehog gave himself a few brief strokes before prodding the tip of his member gently against the hero's slick entrance.

"Whoa-whoa!"

"What?" Shadow huffed.

"Just gimme a warning when you're about to do that..."

"Oh...well, I'm about to do it."

"I know that now, Shads." Sonic chuckled rolling his eyes. He reached up, pulling Shadow down for a tender kiss.

"Just don't fuck me up, okay?"

The ultimate life form gave a slight nod, his mind suddenly racing at the weight put on his shoulders with those few words. Shadow had to make sure he didn't get carried away, but all he could think about was Sonic, how he felt, how he smelled, the kiss, and how even now the warm, wet sensation of his pucker on Shadow's tip was making it harder to breathe...

A faint click in the back of his mind halted his rampant thoughts altogether. Something he couldn't quite place was poking through the fog, and pulling him back to his senses. It was clearer now and Shadow was suddenly very aware that he had not moved for some time. He blinked rapidly, crimson eyes falling onto green, determined but soft and inviting. Sonic had felt Shadow's racing anxiety through their bond and now that he was focused, the ultimate life form could make out the gentle, sturdy comfort pulling him back down to Mobius.

Sonic said nothing but smiled, sliding a hand over Shadow's on the bed. The dark hedgehog knew for a fact if this situation were reversed, he would definitely not be comfortable with continuing if he felt Sonic couldn't control his excitement. Shadow sighed; he had to get a grip on himself.

Carefully he pushed inside, the brief, hot feeling sending a chill through his body as the tight ring of muscles instinctively clamped down on the tip. Sonic shivered and scrunched his nose, a small spike of pain dancing across Shadow's skin at the reaction. He waited for a few heartbeats before the hero wordlessly urged him on with a gentle nudge across his Chaos wavelength.

Inch by inch the ultimate life form managed to gain a little progress, trying his best to make the process hurt a little less each time. He would gently retreat, and push back in, a fraction of his length making it deeper than before. Sonic however seemed to be having trouble, his lower half trembling and clamping down reflexively making some thrusts harder than others. He panted harshly, eyes wet and glossy but refusing to call it quits despite the discomfort.

"Shadow..."

"Yes?" He replied quickly.

"Mnn...I need something to...you know..."

Peach hands stroked his rival's white chest lovingly, trying to convey what he was too exhausted and frazzled to ask out loud. Shadow nodded and leaned over, and pulled the hero into a deep kiss. Sonic groaned at the contact, wrapping his arms around Shadow's neck and licking hungrily into his mouth, a pink tongue swiping over sharp fangs and sending electricity down the ultimate life form's spine. The hero needed a distraction, something to make the process a little easier and Shadow was more than willing to oblige.

He thrusted slowly, the ring of muscles looser now that Sonic was more relaxed and focused on the kiss. Every whine and groan that left the blue hedgehog's lips Shadow swallowed down immediately, determined to ride him through the roughest part of it as best as he could. Satisfied purrs rose into Sonic's chest as he raked short peach nails through his rival's quills, enjoying the onslaught of attention.

Shadow let out a soft grunt, finally buried into the blue hedgehog all the way to the hilt. Sonic broke away from the kiss and nuzzled Shadow's cheek, panting as he adjusted to the girth buried deep inside him. He felt full and hot as the length pressing firmly against his prostate and the hero waited anxiously for Shadow to move. As if on queue, the dark hedgehog slid back carefully, hot silken walls squeezing his member every inch of the way. He thrust back in with a little more force making the hero beneath him let out a broken moan of pleasure. He gripped Shadow's arm roughly, head thrown back as his lithe blue body arched off of the bed. Shadow held him close as his body relaxed, thrusting at a quicker pace, watching Sonic's expression and sensing his wavelength for any signs of pain.

The blue hero however only let out soft, gentle grunts, adjusting to the fast pace rather quickly. A sharp pain ran through the ultimate life form's shoulder at the feeling of tiny fangs suddenly clamping down through his fur. The action only turned him on even more and Shadow pushed Sonic's legs back further, thrusting into him harshly from above.

To the dark hedgehog's surprise, Sonic actually growled, biting down harder and huffing aggressively in his ear. Pleasure exploded in the back of Shadow's head the sudden spike of emotion causing him to shiver, digging his claws into a blue leg.

"Harder..."

The word was so husky and low, that if Shadow had not been pounding into the hero right now, he would have mistaken that sultry voice for someone else.

"You'll get what I give you." He growled back on instinct, both aroused and annoyed by Sonic's command. Black claws moved from their hold on the hero's leg to his neck, green eyes shutting tight as they closed around his throat. Sonic bit his lip, desperately trying to hang on, but Shadow wasnt making it easy, pounding faster and deeper hitting that bundle of nerves mercilessly with each thrust.

The bed began to rock back and forth, the only sounds registering in Shadow's mind were Sonic's needy moans and the harsh slap of skin against skin as he gave the blue hero all he was worth.

"Shadow...!" Sonic called desperately, head turned to the side and gripping anything in reach to ground himself. The ultimate life form bent down eye level with the hero, grinding harder until he could feel Sonic's inner walls spasm uncontrollably around his cock, sucking him in. Shadow tightened his grip so hard he was sure that if it was anyone else, he would have snapped their neck, but it only drove Sonic higher, his chaos energy crackling around the ultimate life form so violently that he began to see stars.

And then Sonic screamed his name louder than ever before and Shadow lost it.

A deep throaty moan escaped his lips as he released into his rival, the warm heat becoming slicker with each thrust as he poured everything out, nerves set on fire and Chaos energy vibrating across his muscles so hard it hurt. Hot thick liquid splashed on his chest as Sonic came shortly after, the blue hero repeating his name over and over as if it were the most precious thing in the universe.

Sonic gasped as Shadow let go of his throat both hedgehogs out of breath and spread out tiredly on the bed, the ultimate life form sparing a little energy to pull out of his rival before flopping back onto him roughly. Sonic winced and gave a weak push in protest under Shadow's weight, but didn't bother to move away.

He pushed his muzzle in the dark hedgehog's shoulder and let out a small curious noise, licking at the puncture wounds left behind. Shadow let out an amused snort at the gesture and ran a claw through blue quills tenderly.

"Sorry 'bout biting you..." Sonic whispered hoarsely.

"They will heal, hedgehog."

He gingerly pushed himself up off of the hero and leaned back, his stomach plummeting at the sight of dark blue bruises around Sonic's neck. He hadn't meant to grab him that hard...

The blue hedgehog rubbed his neck and narrowed his eyes mischievously at Shadow, putting a protective hand over the bruises.

"Don't even think about it. I'm keeping them." He said clearing his throat.

"I apologize."

"There's nothing to be sorry about. You bruise my neck, I eat up your shoulder, we're even. Besides..." Sonic rolled over on his side and sat up quickly, a cheeky grin spread on his tired face.

"I wanna leave even more marks on you."

"You do realize that I heal quickly, right?"

"Well then, I better keep at it, huh?" He replied, using all of his energy to crawl to the head of the bed.

"C'mon, let's get some sleep, babe."

"Shouldn't we shower at least?"

Sonic frowned and threw a pillow lazily in his rival's direction.

"You can do that in the mornin' now come here. Right here." He patted the space on the bed beside him, eyes wide and pleading as he tilted his head in Shadow's direction.

"Please...?"

"Fine, fine. If you want to sleep like this I'll indulge you, this once. Just stop with the puppy dog eyes, Chaos." The ultimate life form crawled in beside him and pulled the hero close, realizing he wasn't in the mood to shower either. Sonic's scent was stronger than usual, the sharp earthy smell was soothing his frayed, tired nerves. He buried his face in Sonic's soft peach belly, a low purr vibrating in his chest.

"Hmmnn...you're pretty comfy for someone who wanted to shower so soon after all that..." The blue hedgehog chuckled as he scratched lazily behind a black ear. Shadow ignored him, completely satisfied to let Sonic win the argument if it meant he got to cuddle the idiot a little longer in return. He stayed silent for the longest time, basking in the perfect blend of their chaos energies flowing back and forth.

"Chaos, why are you so perfect...?" Shadow breathed, instantly regretting it once he realized he said his private thoughts out loud. He turned his head, waiting for the annoying cocky grin to show up on Sonic's dorky face and ruin the mood.

Thankfully, the hero had fallen asleep during their cuddle and likely had not heard anything at all. Shadow sighed in relief, pulling the blue striped blanket up around them. The rain had not let up at all outside, the faint pattering and smell of the ocean still wafting in on the balcony. Shadow sighed at the gentle noise and pressed closer to the hero, drifting off to sleep soon after him.

The two hedgehogs rested soundly through the remainder of night, curled up safe and warm in each other's arms as they waited out the rest of the storm.

Chapter Text

'Pick yourselves up and stop crying!'

'No matter what fate has in store for me, I'll know that I put the world in balance by uniting its greatest heroes.'

'I look forward to you two doing so much together long after I'm gone.'

Shadow wasn't sure before, but he was positive now. It all made sense.

She knew.

She knew long before anyone else did.

The ultimate life form stared at the delicate hand writing on the letter, scanning it several times to see if he had missed anything from the night before. It was just as he had suspected when he had read it aloud, and now looking at it with fresh eyes he was certain that Amy knew more about her own fate than anyone ever did.

Shadow glanced at the bathroom door, hot steam billowing up from underneath and filling the small hotel room with moist air. Sonic had decided to take his shower after Shadow, which gave the dark hedgehog plenty of time to himself to go over the letter Amy left them from before. It was all he could think about this morning when he awoke and Shadow was thankful the hero didn't catch on to the words in her letter as quickly as he did.

Should he tell Sonic now?

Should he tell him at all?

Normally, Shadow would let him know because the ultimate life form believed that people needed to know the truth regardless of how they felt about it. However, after everything they've been through, Shadow wasn't so sure he was okay with hurting the blue hedgehog's feelings or the consequences that would come from it. Then again, he didn't exactly enjoy keeping his partner in the dark about it either.

Before he did anything, he needed more evidence beyond a hunch. Shadow tapped briefly on his communicator, waiting for the person on the other end to pick up his call.

"What's up, hon? How have you been?"

"Rouge. I need a favor."

"Ah, ah, Shadow." The sultry voice replied.

" I believe you still owe me a favor first, don't you?"

"I don't have time for your games today, bat." The dark hedgehog growled in irritation.

"This is about Amy."

Rouge paused on the other end of the line, a quick tap of computer keys sounding in the background before she replied.

"What do you need?"

"I need to see if you can find her medical records for me."

"Any time in particular that you're looking for?"

"Hmn. A few from her early years perhaps. However, I'm particularly interested in any that were recorded after the incident four years ago."

"Why--...oh I see." Shadow already knew what she was going to ask next.

"Does Blue know about this?"

"No. Not yet. I don't plan on telling him anything until I know for sure that I'm correct in my assumptions."

"Well, leave it to me, if there's anything worth finding I'll find it. Just...if what you're thinking is true, do you really think its okay to just tell him?"

Shadow shrugged, though his colleague couldn't see the motion.

"I believe he at least has the right to know."

"Hmm. Alright. Well, I'll get right on it."

"Oh, and one more thing before I forget... the hedgehog said, 'his ass thanks you'."

"What? What on Mobius does that..."

He could practically feel the sly, scandalous grin on her face through the phone as she connected the dots.

"Oh my god you didn't! You did! Ahhhh! Oh my god I-I gotta call Tails! Knuckles owes me so much money--!"

"You're on speaker, woman, keep your voice down!"

"Okay, okay, so how was it? Was he good? Was he freak? The blue boy looks like a freak not gonna lie--"

"Bye, Rouge." Shadow said quickly.

"Wait no! Tell me, you asshole! Shadow!?"

The dark hedgehog clicked off his communicator, hearing the metallic squeak of the faucet handles turning the shower off in the bathroom. Shortly after, Sonic stepped out with a towel around his waist, bright azure quills glossy and fresh in the dim balcony sunlight. He had Shadow's phone in one hand, tapping idly on the screen and a bundled up towel in the other. The blue hero glanced up at his partner, greeting him with a smile and a flirtatious wink.

"I'm done, babe. Did ya miss me?"

"You were only gone for twenty minutes, and you were in the bathroom."

"Shads, you're supposed to lie and say 'Yes'."

Shadow got up from the bed and met Sonic halfway, running an ungloved hand lovingly through blue quills. He pulled the hero close and pressed a kiss to his peach muzzle.

"I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss you, just a little."

"Chaos, don't tell me that with a straight face..." Sonic chuckled.

"Oh yeah, I've been meaning to tell you; last night? Awesome. Ten outta ten."

"Hmn. Glad I could be of service to you."

Sonic wrapped an arm around Shadow's waist, and returned the kiss before reaching into his quills and rummaging around. The dark hedgehog frowned at the intrusion, glaring at the hero through narrowed eyes.

"You know, you could always just ask permission like a civilized individual."

"You've been in my ass bro, I think we're past that. Ah, here it is." He pulled the pink notebook out carefully, shaking the sparse water droplets from the cover.

"Have you checked it yet?"

"I never check it without you present."

Sonic flashed a grateful smile and walked over to the bed, spreading out the book on the sheets and flipping a few pages. Shadow leaned over his shoulder looking at where the hero stopped on a single card on a page.

The card was labeled 'Six of Swords' and depicted a hooded woman with a small child riding in a boat. Behind them, a man pushed the boat along with a large stick and in front of them sat six swords stabbed downward into the boat. Beyond them, Shadow could see the calm river with scattered trees in front of a cloudy horizon. Below the card was written the location 'Egg Central Base; Metropolis'

The ultimate life form's heart plummeted into his stomach.

"The Egg base?" Sonic asked curiously, lifting the tarot card from the page to read the clues underneath.

'Transition, Change, Rite of Passage, Releasing Baggage'

"Hm...it sounds about right I guess. I think I'm starting to understand these card clues a little better. The Egg base is where--"

"We last fought the Doctor." Shadow interrupted. He closed the notebook and placed it back into his quills absently, seemingly lost in thought at the clues of their location.

"You okay, Shads?" The hero asked as he threw the damp hotel towels on the bed.

"Looks like you've seen a ghost or something...and you feel like it too."

"I'm fine." Shadow replied quickly.

"I just...wonder why Amy is sending us to the old Egg base is all. There shouldn't be anything there, and the city of Metropolis has long been abandoned."

In truth, the dark hedgehog was genuinely curious about why the pink hedgehog picked a wasteland of a city as their next stop. He knew that particular Egg base had significance because it was their final stand with Dr. Robotnik, but there was hardly a reason to visit it.

"Welp, that's the fun part, isn't it? Figuring out why she's sendin' us. Besides, looking back on old victories over Egghead is always an awesome pastime."

Shadow shrugged, hardly interested in any old memories about one of their greatest foes but he figured Sonic felt differently, given that knew the Doctor longer than any of them had.

"Are you ready to go?" He asked, running a hand down the blue hedgehog's back affectionately.

"Yeah. Although let's take our time as we're heading out, yeah? I want you to get a good look at Windmill Isle in the daytime."

"Alright then, where do you want to go?"

A peach arm wrapped around the ultimate life form's neck, pulling Shadow close until he felt soft lips on the underside of his muzzle.

"No place in particular, just as long as I'm with you babe."

"Wow that's...so very cliché."

"I'm trying to be romantic, please cooperate."

 

 

After checking out of the small inn, Sonic led his rival through the cobblestone streets of Windmill Isle to take in the sights. Shadow had to admit the city was incredibly gorgeous in the daytime, rivaled only by its vast ocean view beyond the rocky cliff side.

However, Sonic began to notice the ultimate life form seemed distracted, speaking very little and constantly checking his wrist communicator. Despite his strange behavior his chaos wavelength remained the same, still responding in that warm gentle way anytime Sonic touched him. The hero gradually became agitated by his partner's unusual behavior and decided to take a short break before they headed out of town for good.

The two hedgehogs came upon a grassy hill at the edge of Windmill Isle, overlooking the deep sea. Dotted around the area were rocky mounds with small clusters of frosted plant life growing between the cracks in the stone. Large white windmills stood tall on the hillside, their blades blowing harshly in the Autumn air. For a while Sonic and Shadow stood watching the sea in silence, the blue hedgehog pulling out his rival's phone on occasion to snap pictures to post online.

It was much colder up here than Sonic anticipated but thankfully his new varsity was thick enough to block out most of the winds. Shadow seemed unaffected by the weather as usual, though the hero noticed a faint pink tinge dusting his partner's ears and muzzle from the frosty wind. The quiet atmosphere between them suddenly had Sonic feeling lonely, Shadow's crimson gaze staring intently beyond the sea deep in thought. He leaned over and gently and kissed a cold cheek to get his attention.

"Something the matter?" Shadow grunted, immediately bringing a gloveless hand up to caress Sonic's face. His hasty reaction indicated to the hero that Shadow was at least somewhat aware that he had been ignoring him.

"I was about to ask you the same thing."

"Why? I'm fine."

Sonic sighed and removed the dark hedgehog's hand, holding it close to his chest instead. Green eyes held an expression Shadow couldn't read, and he feared that his behavior had given away what he tried so hard to hide up until now.

"Are you having mixed feelings about last night? About me?"

Oh.

Well.

That was not what he expected to hear.

"Mixed feelings?" Shadow repeated, confused.

"Well, it's just...you're a-- you were -- a virgin and I know it can be weird once you're like...not one, and then you start having some regrets after it happened. And its not like you hated it, you liked it, but you don't know if you made the right choice because you're not crazy about this person, and maybe thinking that you should've waited for someone else, especially when you do meet someone else--"

"You seem to be well-versed in this particular topic, hedgehog."

Sonic averted his eyes toward the town, suddenly feeling as if he had said too much. Cold hands fiddled with black claws absently, their natural warmth soothing and reassuring.

"I just-- I know how it can feel the first time. I want to make sure you're okay with everything that's happened between us."

The dark hedgehog leaned in close, pressing a chaste kiss to soft peach lips and relishing the brief, hot tingle that danced across their bond at the contact.

"I assure you, Sonic. I have no regrets." He replied softly.

"Do you have any about me?"

"Chaos, no!" The hero chuckled breathlessly. He pressed his forehead against Shadow's lovingly, feeling lighter than air after hearing his rival's reply.

"You're like the best thing that's ever happened to me, dude. I'd never regret anything we've been through. Well, you're the second best. Becoming a famous hero is pretty high up there."

"That's a bold statement, considering how close we are to the edge of a cliff, hedgehog."

"I'm joking! You're number one, I swear."

Shadow nodded, seeming satisfied with Sonic's answer.

"I better be. Now, are you ready to go?"

"Yeah. Oh wait, one more picture. We haven't taken a selfie in a bit, and I know everyone is getting restless since they haven't seen us together lately." The blue hedgehog reached into his pocket and pulled out Shadow's phone starting up the camera app.

"You actually check their comments every day?"

"It makes me happy seeing people get all excited over us like this. Besides, you know I never disappoint the fans."

He pulled Shadow in close and wrapped an arm around his shoulder, bringing the camera up high above them to get a good shot. As soon as the small click sounded off, Shadow broke away and made a hasty retreat back down the hill toward the city. Sonic glanced over his shoulder at the dark hedgehog but didn't question it; Shadow was still very uneasy about taking pictures.

The hero stayed behind for a bit longer, rifling through the photo gallery for the picture they took so he could post it online. Once he found it he quickly hit 'share' and paused, trying to think of a witty caption. Should he say something about Windmill Isle? Or the sea? Sonic glanced back at the photo, his eyes going wide in disbelief at what he captured without even noticing it.

Shadow was smiling.

Something so rare and genuine, Sonic could hardly believe he was actually looking at it with his own eyes. Shadow rarely smiled beyond a smirk or a chuckle, and when he did, the hero relished every second of it knowing it wouldn't last forever. Now he had something tangible, even more precious because he didn't have to sneak a candid photo to get it; Shadow actually smiled for him.

Sonic backed out of the page quickly and sent the photo to his email address instead, tucking the phone into his jacket pocket once he was finished. He grinned eagerly and turned away from the ocean to catch up to his partner.

The blue hero decided that some things in this world were just too precious to share.

 

 

"Ugh, Chaos...its hard the breathe around here."

Sonic coughed sharply at the dank stale air, trying to figure out their location through the clouds of dust floating around them. Shadow followed the hero's lead and took the his hand as they made their way through the desolate city, keeping an eye out for anything suspicious.

Even though the dangers here were long gone, one could never be too careful.

Cold winds whistled above them as it blew through tall metallic buildings, the glass cracked and busted from their windows. Various robot sentries were ripped apart and scattered, indicating some people had occasionally returned to the deserted city to salvage machine parts. Large industrial pipes and miscellaneous metal structures sat rusted over or stripped down to their bare frames, making it impossible to tell what they once were. Broken glass cracked underfoot as the two hedgehogs walked side by side through the silence, their energies buzzing with unease at the apocalyptic remains of former Metropolis.

"I can't believe this place went to hell so fast. It hasn't even been that long...has it?" Sonic whispered to his partner.

"This city was once ran by a tyrannical ruler. It doesn't take that long. If anything a few years is more than enough time to abandon and trash it."

"Hm...I guess so. Anyway, you're right about one thing, I'm seriously confused as to why Ames sent us to this place, its garbage territory right now."

Shadow shrugged, looking around through the torn down skyline to see if he could make out anything significant.

"Well, she did say the Egg Base. Maybe our destination is there in particular."

"Good thinking, Shads!" Sonic replied cheerfully. He let go of his rival's hand and got into a ready position, eyes scanning the area briefly before relaxing his body in disappointment.

"Aw, there's no room to run in this city with everything all trashed and destroyed buildings in the way. I was gonna ask you to race."

"Hmm. It is a little crowded and dangerous isn't it? Perhaps walking is the best idea since we aren't that far." Shadow replied. He walked up next to Sonic and gently laced their fingers together once again.

"Besides...I kind of enjoy holding hands."

"Oooh, someone's a softie." Sonic teased. He lifted the dark hedgehog's hand up with his own and gave his knuckles a gentle kiss.

"S'okay babe, I'm a softie too."

"Chaos, just...get moving." Shadow replied trying his best to shove down those fuzzy tingly emotions he knew his partner could feel bouncing off his Chaos energy. Sonic chuckled but said nothing more as the two of them headed out to the Egg Base.

A familiar looking courtyard came into view, its grounds covered in harshly rusted robots and smaller badniks piled in the center. Behind them, the hero could make out a huge robot smashed into the dome rooftop of the Egg Base, it's long broken arms draped over the pillars lining the front entrance. Seeing nothing of particular importance outside the base, Sonic suggested they head inside and look around. His rival seemed uneasy about the idea but followed the blue hedgehog in regardless.

It was quieter inside the base than it was out front, ominous winds muffled by the cold metallic walls of the building. Many of the hallways they tried to enter were smashed or completely empty and Sonic was beginning to believe that they misunderstood Amy's clues after all. Suddenly they spotted a larger room up ahead bathed in light and Sonic quickened his pace, hoping at the very least that having more light would make it easier to get their bearings.

What they found was far better than he had ever hoped for.

The lower half of the giant robot outside hung loosely through the rooftop, creating a skylight shining beams of light on the floor. Below it the metallic floor had been torn away under its weight, revealing lush grass flourishing underneath. Ivy and moss covered the walls of the room and much of the mech itself, coating the cold grey in a lively emerald green. Pink and white flowers bloomed in clusters, poking out of small corners and under slabs of broken concrete. in the center was a pile of churned up earth and rocks now covered in frosty grass, a lone metal pipe leaking water down the middle and forming a small tranquil pool in the floor. A few flickies were bathing in the water while others flew around cheerfully, the space brought to life with their gentle tweeting.

"This is beautiful." Sonic said softly, holding a hand out for a curious flickie to land on his finger. Shadow walked up beside him and copied his gesture, though the little birds that came by opted to land on his quills instead. The hero chuckled and walked closer to the pool, crouching down and noticed small fish swimming lazily at the bottom.

"Huh, I wonder how you tiny fellas made it all the way out here."

"The pipe probably brought them, knowing the Doctor had a habit of rerouting natural resources to his bases." Shadow replied gently shooing the stubborn flickies away from his head quills. A small beep sounded on his communicator and scared them away, the birds flying to Sonic instead and playfully pecking his ears.

"Hah, c'mon little guys, cut it out!" He laughed pulling them off one by one. The hero gazed up into the skylight wistfully, feeling an odd sense of calm at knowing Eggman's base had become a flickie paradise now. The irony that this once formidable metallic city was now abandoned and taken over by the natural wildlife, was not lost on the blue hedgehog. He closed his eyes and bathed in the warm sunlight, reminiscing the countless battles he had fought alongside his friends. Sonic almost missed the excitement of it all, and chuckled at how far away those struggles seemed now that they were here in the future.

It was over now. They had won.

Emerald eyes open and squinted into the light, their glossy gaze turning towards the ultimate life form staring intently at the hologram being projected from his communicator. Sonic stood up and made his way over to his partner, feeling a bit sentimental now that they had seen what became of the Egg base.

"It's great, isn't it Shads?" He asked, placing a hand on Shadow's waist to get his attention. The dark hedgehog quickly looked up from his communicator to face him directly.

There was nothing but cold anxiety when their eyes met.

Shadow seemed at a loss for words, his chaos energy sending nervous ripples down Sonic's spine. It was instant and alarming, prompting the hero to immediately hold his partner closer in an effort to comfort him.

"What's wrong?" He asked, concerned.

The dark hedgehog closed his eyes, trying to relax his frayed nerves. Shadow knew that Sonic could feel whatever he felt and the last thing he wanted to do was stress him out before telling him the news. He placed a reassuring kiss on the hero's temple and backed away so he could face him properly.

"Before I tell you this, I want to apologize for seeming so distant earlier. I wasn't entirely sure if I should tell you this, especially without proper evidence to back it up. However, now I'm positive and I think you deserve to know."

"Know what...?"

"Sonic," Shadow said softly.

"I know what caused Amy's death."

Chapter Text

"Look out!!"

Sonic barely heard her, his attention focused entirely on the next wave of badniks coming their way. The hero dashed through the crowd of robots just in time and narrowly missed the giant metallic claw, scooping a ragged hole in the ground where he once stood. Green determined eyes gazed upward at the titan, trying to figure out how to get up to its exposed glass head.

Tails had said the only way to disable the Egg Giant (As Eggman had called it) was to destroy its exposed solar panels under the glass at the top of its head. However, even with all their forces together, Sonic and his friends were having trouble getting up that high without being attacked by the smaller robots flying nearby.

Amy's hammer caught his attention as it crashed into another robot coming in on his left. The pink hedgehog stumbled beside him and paused to catch her breath, leaning on her weapon for support.

"Sonic..!" She gasped.

"Sonic, have you made any progress yet?!"

"Not at all, I was waiting for Tails' signal, is he okay?"

She nodded quickly, tired, teal pupils shaking with exhaustion. The hero felt a pang of guilt asking her ditch her college classes and come to Metropolis to fight. He knew she hadn't been training lately and this battle was harder on her than normal, but he needed all the help he could get right now.

"He's fine, but the Tornado was shot down! Knuckles and Rouge have been trying to pick their way to the top and Shadow's been getting rid of some of the drones, but this giant piece of crap just won't stay still!"

The hero sucked his teeth and glanced around quickly, making a rough estimate about how many robots were still around. Every time he tried to focus on the task at hand, more civilians needed to be shooed out of the way or saved from rampaging badniks attacking anything in sight. Team Chaotix were doing a relatively good job at moving the citizens of Metropolis further North but three people could only do so much, and there were so many stragglers...

"I'll give you a boost, let's see if we can be quick and strike it head on!" Amy pipped up, pulling her hammer back into hands.

Sonic gave her a wry smile as he crouched low, preparing himself for a spin dash.

"I ain't as little as I use to be, Ames, you think you can still smack me up there?"

The pink hedgehog scoffed, narrowing her eyes at the cheeky hero.

"Do you have any idea who you're talking to? Get to spinning!"

Quickly, Sonic curled into a ball, holding his position and spinning in place as fast as he could. Amy gripped her hammer tight with both hands and wound up her swing, a loud 'smack' resounding as the young woman hit her target with all her remaining strength.

She didn't see the giant claw heading in her direction before it was too late.

Sonic slapped harshly into the thick glass on the robot's head, shaking the entire mech with the force. The surface was slippery and the blue hedgehog scrambled trying to get a good hold as he slid downward. Worry flashed in his eyes at the realization that his spin dash had only cracked the glass, instead of sending him through entirely. He needed to propel himself harder into it--

"Sonic!"

The hero whipped around quickly, eyes going wide as the Egg Giant's arm held Amy high above the ground, the pink hedgehog tiny and fragile in its mighty grasp. The clawed hand kept moving upward as it made its way closer to the top and Sonic strained his muscles, ready to jump on the arm and pull Amy to safety.

One of its fingers uncurled slowly as the arm kept moving.

Then another.

The hero's heart leaped into his throat.

The Egg Giant was going to drop her so it could grab him.

"Amy!!!"

Sonic pushed himself off the glass dome with as much effort as he could muster, but without a good hold on the surface he had very little momentum to reach her. Desperately he extended his hand to the pink hedgehog, hoping that by some miracle he would catch her in time. She was right there, even if he fell with her, he could still break her fall, her fingertips brushed his briefly...

he missed.

A flying drone came barreling in Sonic's direction and slammed into him in midair. The harsh impact alone was enough to send his body ricocheting straight through a nearby building. The hero grit his teeth, feeling metal and wood scrape through his flesh until he slowed down, leaving a dent in one of the structure's inner metal walls.

Sonic's muscles were on fire and he grunted in pain, pulling himself out of the dent. Once he managed to free himself the hero made a mad dash back to the scene, praying that Shadow or someone, anyone, had seen Amy fall in time to catch her when he couldn't.

Hope fluttered in his chest seeing the ultimate life form crouched over Amy, cradling her head carefully.

"Shadow! Shad--"

The hero's hopes were immediately crushed when he saw Shadow's hands were covered in blood.

Sonic stumbled as all the strength left his legs, skidding on his knees as he hurriedly crouched beside the dark hedgehog over his injured friend. Amy's body was limp, her eyes closed and blood spattered on the back of her head, trickling over the pavement.

"Amy...!!" Sonic cried hoarsely, large wet tears welling in his eyes when she didn't respond. Shakily he picked up one of her delicate hands and held it to his chest, the world suddenly stopping around him and making it harder to breathe.

He made this happen to her.

He forced her to come here knowing she wasn't prepared for this...

"I have to get her to a hospital." Shadow said urgently, breaking the hedgehog out of his panic attack. He put a hand on the hero's shoulder, red eyes boring into green and bringing Sonic back to reality.

"She's still breathing, I have time. Go stop that thing. Now!"

The blue hedgehog nodded quickly, the world slowly coming back to life around him as Shadow's voice rang in his ears.

Without another word, the ultimate life form pulled out his green Chaos emerald and vanished, taking Amy's unconscious body along with him. Sonic got to his feet slowly and tried to steady his breathing.

This wasn't over. He still had a job to do.

'Amy! Where's Shadow? Is everything okay?'

Tails' urgent voice sounded nearby, Amy's pink wrist communicator sitting slightly cracked on the ground. Sonic picked it up gingerly, wincing at the droplets of blood staining the bright pink wrist straps.

"It's me, Sonic." He said evenly.

"Amy had an accident, but Shadow's got her. What's the news?"

'I've got the Tornado running again, and I think I can drop you on this thing hard enough to shatter it! Are you ready?'

"Yeah." The hero growled harshly as he gazed up at the Egg Giant once more, nothing but pure rage burning in his fiery emerald eyes.

"Let's take this motherfucker down."

 

 

"Sonic," Shadow said softly.

"I know what caused Amy's death."

The blue hero tilted his head, puzzled by the weight Shadow seemed to be putting on his words. He took a step forward, a hesitant smile on his lips as he tried to close the gap between them.

"Shads...you already told me how she died. You said she had a brain...thing. That she was sick. Did you forget?"

The dark hedgehog took a pace back, avoiding his partner's embrace. Shadow knew that the moment Sonic touched him, the moment that warm, inviting chaos energy enveloped him, he would be reluctant to say what he needed to say.

"I know I told you that she had a ruptured brain aneurysm...but I didn't tell you why she had an aneurysm in the first place."

Blue ears tilted forward, suddenly alert.

"You said you didn't know why. That nobody knew why and that there may not even be a reason why." Sonic's smile became less genuine, seeming to falter a bit as he spoke.

"I may not have been entirely truthful."

The room was quiet. The only sounds in the base were muffled winds blowing outside, and a quiet trickling of water in the small natural pool. The flickies had gone silent some time ago, huddling anxiously away from the two hedgehogs in their little tranquil paradise.

Sonic said nothing, eyes focused intensely on his partner as he waited for him to continue. The loving smile that Shadow had seen only moments ago disappeared, replaced by a thin, tight lipped frown. The ultimate life form sighed heavily, running a hand anxiously through black quills as he continued.

"I...had Rouge look up Amy's medical records before I could confirm my theory." He started evenly, avoiding direct eye contact with the blue hero.

"Apparently the risk of surgery to fix the blood clot was too high. She had been taking blood pressure medications and regular MRI scans of her brain at her doctor's advice to watch over the aneurysm and its progress. This had been going on for several years."

Green eyes suddenly widened, and Shadow could see the gears turning in the hero's head.

"How many years...?"

"Exactly four."

Sonic stood stock still, his chaos energy running colder than the dark hedgehog had ever felt.

"As I told you before, brain aneurysms are random clots that can develop entirely by chance...but the risk of developing one is extremely high when someone...experiences severe trauma to the head."

"She knew..." The hero whispered softly.

Shadow nodded.

"She did."

"You knew." Sonic's voice dropped an octave.

"No. I told you, I had assumptions, but I didn't know--"

A peach hand lashed out and grabbed Shadow's chest fur roughly, pulling the ultimate life form close until he could feel Sonic's hot, angry breath on his face. Shadow flinched at the pain but he refused to let his discomfort show, eyeing his partner completely stone faced.

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"What good would it have done? Why would I get you worked up over something if I didn't even know if it was true?"

He shoved the dark hedgehog away, his chaos energy suddenly crackling violently with anger.

"Why keep it a secret at all? Why wait to tell me? Because you know its my fault!?"

"Hedgehog, its not your--"

"It is my fault..!" Sonic yelled desperately.

"She got hurt because of me, I ruined her for life, and you knew it and this whole time; you've been lying to me."

Shadow shook his head slowly and inched closer to the hero, hoping to get close enough to calm him down. Gently, he felt out Sonic's energy and tried to stroke it with his own but the hero's wavelength bristled at the contact. Shadow was assaulted with loud, unintelligible thoughts springing into his mind as waves of hatred and sadness washing over him. The dark hedgehog winced back under the onslaught but Sonic had hardly noticed, his back now turned on his partner.

"I didn't lie to you." Shadow said roughly as he tried to get his own emotions under control. Their bond was making Sonic's own mood infectious and the last thing Shadow wanted to do was give into that raw anger like he use to.

A dreadful, black aura began seeping into the brightly lit room and the ultimate life form looked around hesitantly for the source. Where was it coming from? Had an enemy snuck inside while they had been talking?

The air became colder around him as the darkness thickened and Shadow's eyes narrowed on his rival, slowly realizing that the black aura wasn't coming into the room.

It was coming out of Sonic.

bright azure quills began to fade into a deep glossy navy, the formerly blue hedgehog's shoulders shaking as he let out small, pained whimpers. Slowly his quills raised as the dark aura increased, his chaos wavelength, once a lively warm heat, was now warped into a stagnant, bitter cold.

This wasn't good.

Shadow had to calm him down. Fast.

"Sonic, listen to me. You know for a fact I would never lie to you, but--"

"BULLSHIT!" Sonic roared, his distorted voice was deep and low, yet somehow resounding violently through the metal base. He turned to the ultimate life form, pupils flickering in and out rapidly.

Shadow was barely able to ready himself for the attack, Sonic's speed skyrocketing so high the ultimate life form could hardly keep track of his movements. Dark blue shapes flashed violently in all directions, as if Sonic was unable to control his own body, let alone calm himself. A harsh blow to the temple had Shadow seeing stars as he crashed into a pile of junk in the corner of the room.

"Faker...!" He shouted angrily, trying to shake off the loose scraps of metal slicing into his skin. He shifted on the pile and threw a random scrap dismissively in the hero's direction, the metal bouncing off his aura before even making contact.

"Calm yourself down! Pissing me off isn't going to solve anything!"

The hero didn't reply, curling his body into a ball instead as he prepared for a spin dash. Shadow did the same and managed to launch himself first, slamming into the navy hedgehog and sending him barreling through the opposite wall.

The ultimate life form waited, staring at dark hole where Sonic landed and preparing himself for the next attack. The hero was faster and stronger than normal, and Shadow was trying his best to adapt under the circumstances.

He didn't want to have to use his chaos emerald but--

Oh crap.

Sonic still had the chaos emerald.

As if on queue, a green glow illuminated the pitch black space in the wall and a hazy outline of the enraged hero, barely visible in the dim light.

Shadow was starting to wonder they could read each others minds after all.

On instinct he lifted a his hand, bright chaos energy crackling as he began to form a chaos spear. Shadow hesitated as he saw Sonic climb out of the hole in the wall, making slow deliberate steps straight toward him. The green chaos emerald was clutched in his left hand as its light green aura flowed into Sonic's own.

"...Soni--"

The hero rocketed toward Shadow and the ground tore apart violently in his wake. Shadow braced himself just in time, their energies clashing as he held Sonic's fists back with all his strength. The ultimate life form growled in frustration as he stared into his partner's blank white eyes.

"Stop and just listen to me for a second, dammit!"

"LIAR...!" Sonic shouted back, Shadow's ears flattening at the sheer volume of his warped voice.

The ground began to buckle beneath them and Shadow shifted his stance, trying to push the hero away so he could get his bearings. Sonic tightened his grip on the chaos emerald still in his fist, and picked the dark hedgehog up, throwing him violently into the lower half of the fallen Egg Giant. Water and dirt caked Shadow's quills, the frantic tweeting of flickies ringing around them as they flew away from the fight.

Sonic grabbed him by the shoulders again and slammed him repeatedly into the ground, Shadow bracing himself each time he hit the floor. The impact didn't hurt him as much as the motion itself, rattling his head with each thrust and blurring his vision. Frantically he reached out and grabbed Sonic's head, holding it in place as Chaos energy flowed into his palms.

But he didn't use it. He didn't need to.

The hero, even in this form, could feel the latent energy buzzing in Shadow's hands, and if the ultimate life form wanted to, he could easily form a chaos spear between them. The threat alone was enough to cease Sonic's rampage and he froze, completely still as he crouched above his rival's body.

Shadow's vision cleared and he looked over Sonic's head, shocked to discover they were several feet down into the ground as walls of dirt towered high above them. The sheer force of Sonic slamming him had formed crater after crater and tunneled them deep into the floor.

He glanced back at the navy hedgehog's face, eyes still blank and huffing in frustration as he realized he was trapped in place.

"Sonic," the ultimate life form started quietly.

"Listen to me. I would never lie to you. There was no point in telling you something I had no proof of."

The chaos energy in Shadow's palms dissipated, his grip on the hero's head loosening into a gentle caress.

"WHY...?" The hero asked slowly, his voice loud but not as rough as before.

"Because I didn't want you to turn into this."

Blank eyes stared at the dark hedgehog in disbelief, and Shadow was worried the hero might start up his rampage again. A stray drop of water landed on Sonic's head and he growled, snapping his gaze upward to see where it came from.

Loose clumps of grass and flowers hug over the edge of the hole, as the panicked chirps of flickies continued overhead. chips of concrete and twigs from nests littered the bottom of the hole, and Shadow noticed with dismay a few of delicate flickie bodies sat unmoving around them as well.

The enraged hero leaned off of him, his grip relaxing as he kneeled beside Shadow and slowly shook his head.

"I-I didn't..."

"It's okay, just calm down..." he replied softly.

The dark hedgehog sighed with relief as he noticed Sonic's pupils coming back into view, the dark aura slowly fade away and his navy quills lowering, changing back to his signature bright blue. Shadow took this opportunity to swipe the green emerald out of Sonic's hands, but the blue hedgehog hardly cared, his eyes locked onto one of the tiny birds lying still beside him.

"I'm sorry..." He said hoarsely.

Shadow stroked his quills and planted a gentle kiss on Sonic's forehead. The dark hedgehog got the distinct feeling his partner wasn't apologizing only to him.

Gingerly he slipped an arm around the blue hedgehog's waist, supporting him as Sonic got to his feet. Shadow used Chaos control to transport them above ground, eager to get them out of the hole as quick as possible. A light gasp left the hero's lips and Shadow looked up, following his gaze behind them at what remained of the Flickie paradise.

The robot's lower half had been torn away and pushed violently toward the end of the room, stray vines and dirt trailing along with it. The mound of earth that was once covered in flowers caved in on itself and half of it had poured into the hole along with much of the Flickie nests. The pipe that had an endless flow of water was nowhere to be found, and Shadow didn't even want to know what happened to the fish.

Violent tweets still rang in the air, the tiny birds unable to sort themselves out after the frightening battle, and Sonic's ears flattened at their pained, stressed cries.

"Shadow--"

"Let's go." The ultimate life form interrupted him, anticipating what his rival was going to say. He tightened his grip on a blue hip, hoisting Sonic up a little higher on his shoulder and turned them toward the Egg Base entrance.

"No more apologizing. Come on."

 

 

Shadow was genuinely surprised to find a hotel at the entrance of Metropolis, and even more surprised to find that they actually had guests. The ramshackle building had apparently once been an industrial plant, the savvy owner deciding to change it into a hotel for scalpers and thieves that occasionally came by to raid what was left of the abandoned city.

The man himself seemed rather kind and the building, for what it was worth, seemed decent enough to stay in for the night. Though Shadow grimaced when the owner gave the heroes his 'best' and most expensive room for a 12 percent discount.

Money was no object to the ultimate life form, but it definitely was to others.

The room they were given was clean though a tad shabby, it's pale green walls and cream colored sheets leaving a lot to be desired when it came to home decor. Sour yellow curtains covered the windows and a greyish brown side table sat at the edge of the room, a lone vase with an artificial flower placed in it for decoration.

Sonic hardly stopped to sit down and dragged Shadow into the bathroom without a word. The dark hedgehog didn't argue and followed him in, realizing that the two of them were caked in dried mud and bruises from the scuffle in the Egg Base. Shadow leaned on the sink while his partner turned on the shower, a rusty groan breaking the silence as hot water blasted through.

The hero pulled out the letter marked 'Later' and placed it on the sink, pushing the plastic shower curtains further apart as he began to step in. Sonic winced at the heat of the water but gradually adjusted as it rolled over his back. He held his hand out to Shadow and smiled weakly, inclining his head toward the shower with a quick nod.

"Oh..."

Shadow assumed they were going to take turns, but this worked too.

He took Sonic's hand and stepped in, sighing with relief as the hot water trailed over his tired, bruised muscles. Sonic reached into Shadow's quills and pulled out the notebook, setting it beside the letter far away from the shower. The last thing they needed were those precious items getting wet.

Dark, stripped hands pulled the hero back in impatiently, and Sonic hid a tired smile, relishing in the warmth of Shadow's chaos energy prodding eagerly at his own. He leaned back into the shower and hugged his rival close, running a hand down his back and scratching the short black fur.

Shadow buried his face in the hero's shoulder, a low purr rumbling in his chest as peach hands roamed his body and scrubbed deep into his skin, washing the caked dirt out of his pelt.

"Ah, soap." Sonic said softly, nudging the ultimate life form out his fuzzy haze to grab the bar of soap on the wall behind him. Shadow growled sleepily in protest but retrieved it anyway, holding it behind his back. Sonic huffed a breathy chuckle in response and took it gratefully, lathering fragrant bubbles into Shadow's fur.

"It smells nice..." The dark hedgehog commented, leaving kisses along the hero's neck. He raked his long black claws through blue fur slowly, figuring he should do his part and help Sonic get a little cleaner too. The hero pushed away so he could face Shadow directly, eyes cloudy as he pulled a strained smile. He wanted to apologize again, but he knew his partner wouldn't allow it.

A pink tinge made its way onto Shadow's cheeks, his breath hitching as Sonic nuzzled and kissed his face to convey with his actions what he couldn't say with words. The ultimate life form decided to allow it, giving a low grunt in response as he cleaned his partner's fur, healing any scrapes or cuts he felt along the way.

However, he remembered to leave the bruises on Sonic's neck untouched.

After they were relatively clean, Shadow leaned over and turned the water off, the showerhead making another loud screech in reply. Sonic tossed him a towel as he stepped out and he nodded a thanks, drying his head quills before tucking the notebook and the letter away for safe keeping.

"There's no TV." The blue hedgehog commented sitting on the bed as he dried himself off.

"The only signal for miles is the Eggman Channel. It's probably for the best."

"Good point. Its probably reruns at that. I'd toss my TV too."

The bed creaked slightly as Shadow sat on the edge, leaning back and pulling the worn blanket over his tired form. Sonic sat still for a few minutes deep in thought, before turning off the light and crawling in beside his partner.

"I messed up today..." He said softly as he laid on his back facing the ceiling. Shadow turned toward him, red pupils giving off a dim glow in the darkness.

"Don't dwell on it now. All we can do is push forward. We still have to finish Amy's trip." The dark hedgehog closed his eyes briefly.

"That is, if you still want to."

"I do."

The hero scooted closer to Shadow until they were face to face, gentle hands and strong blue legs wrapping around him until every inch of their bodies were touching. Their chaos wavelengths were caught in a loop of hurt and comfort, Sonic's anxiousness slipping into his energy as Shadow soothed it over with the secure heat of his own. Rich lavender from the hotel soap wafted into his nose, mingling with his rival's natural earthy scent. The ultimate life form sighed and pressed his forehead against Sonic's, relishing the atmosphere as long as he could.

"Night, Shadow." The hero whispered into a soft black ear.

"Goodnight, Sonic."

Chapter Text

"~Double double disco queen,

Headed to the guillotine,

Skin as cool as Steve McQueen,

Let me be your killer King-- ~"

"You know if you want to wake me up, nudging me is always an option."

Shadow rolled over on his side, bleary red eyes narrowed in irritation at his partner beside him. Sonic was laying on his back and glanced over at the ultimate life form, a small mischievous grin making its way on his face.

"Are you telling me you don't want to wake up to a lovely serenade?"

" 'Lovely' is a bit of an overstatement."

"Ouch; and here I thought I was killin' it." The hero chuckled to himself. Black stripped arms wrapped around him gently, a relaxed sigh escaping the hedgehog's lips as Shadow planted a good morning kiss on his cheek.

"I'm glad you're feeling a little better today."

Sonic shrugged and turned his face toward the ceiling again, his smile wilting as he remembered the whirlwind events from yesterday.

Shadow had revealed to him that their last battle with Eggman was the cause of Amy's brain aneurysm, and that she had kept it a secret for the past four years. The blue hedgehog had attacked his partner and ended up turning into his infamous darker self at the news, destroying a natural habitat for innocent flickies in the process.

The entire ordeal left Sonic feeling even more lost than before and he wasn't entirely sure of how he felt today. However there was one discovery from the day before that stuck with the hero more than anything else.

Everything was his fault.

"I spoke too soon I suppose..." Shadow said softly, stroking blue quills and breaking Sonic out of his thoughts. He hadn't noticed the dark hedgehog had been watching him the entire time waiting for a reply.

"I-I'm fine."

"You know you can talk to me if you aren't."

"I know. I said I'm fine."

If there was one thing Shadow was not in the mood for this early in the morning, it was definitely Sonic's dismissive attitude.

"Faker, I don't-"

A low buzzing sounded somewhere underneath the sheets and Sonic immediately fished around for his rival's phone, looking for anything to distract himself from the uncomfortable conversation. The hero found the small device under Shadow's leg and pulled it out, answering it as quickly as possible.

"Hello?"

"Shadow?"

"Sonic. ...Silver?"

"Sonic? Hey!"

"Hey buddy how are ya?" Sonic replied cheerfully.

"How did he get my number? Who else have you been giving my number to?" Shadow asked reaching for the cellphone.

"Hush babe, I'm talkin'. " Sonic replied batting Shadow's hand away.

"Silver how ya been?"

"Pretty good, pretty good. Oh, are you guys on your way to Press Garden yet?"

"Press Garden...? Why?"

"Oh...Oh man! I spoiled it!" Silver sputtered on the other end. Sonic could have sworn he heard the white hedgehog facepalm himself in the background.

"Silver! did you ruin the plan?" A sharp feminine voice called somewhere far away on the phone.

"No, of course not! U-uh, nevermind, Sonic see you later!"

The hero eyed the phone as he heard Silver hang up abruptly, blue brows knitted together in confusion. That was...weird.

Well, at least they knew where they were going next.

"What did Silver want?" Shadow asked taking the phone out of Sonic's hands. He quickly went through his contacts to see if his partner had added anyone else to his short, tidy list of friends.

"He said something about Press Garden. I guess that's where we're going next, haha."

"Hmm. I wonder why. Perhaps we should take a look." The ultimate life form pulled out Amy's notebook and handed it to Sonic, still busing himself with deleting the newly added contacts from his phone.

Oh great, the echidna was in there now...

Sonic nodded and flipped through the pages idly until he came to another Tarot card they hadn't seen yet. The card depicted a young boy and girl in a village, surrounded by cups each holding a single white flower. The boy was bent slightly and holding one of the cups out to the girl, her tiny painted face lit up a grateful smile. The words 'Six of Cups' were printed neatly underneath the illustration. Just as the hero expected, Amy's handwriting read 'Press Garden' right below the taped down card.

"Oh, this one seems really cute." Sonic lifted the card slightly to reveal the clues underneath.

'Revisiting the past, Innocence, Childhood memories, Joy'

"Hm. That's rather odd." Shadow pipped up as he leaned on his partner's shoulder squinting at the notebook.

"I can't recall anything significant happening at Press Garden with the Doctor that would bring up particular memories...unless this is specific to you, hedgehog."

Sonic shrugged, his blue brows knitted together thoughtfully.

"Nah, me either. Ya know, aside from all the times I kicked his ass there. Maybe this is just us going to see Silver? He's 'revisiting the past' or whatever right?"

"Ah, that is also a factor." The ultimate life form smiled briefly, a clawed black hand reaching up to tug playfully at a small blue ear.

"You're getting good at this, Faker. Perhaps there is something rattling around in that head of yours."

"Oh don't even, Mr. 'platypus-aren't-real'--"

"I told you never to mention that to me again." Shadow growled dangerously, black claws pricking at his partner's ear. The blue hedgehog ignored him and a cheeky grin spread across his muzzle at the memory.

" 'Faker, you're being ridiculous, Platypus are a myth! An egg-laying, venomous beaver-duck? Do you hear yourself?' "

"Sonic, I swear to Chaos--"

"Oh, and then you screamed like a baby when I lifted it out of the water-- Ow! O-okay, stop, stop let go! Shads!!"

 

Bright golden eyes peered anxiously down the empty path, their owner shifting side to side on his feet in anticipation. A red flicky zoomed by in the peripheral of his vision, disappearing into the lush pink canopy above. The white hedgehog leaned against one of the nearby trees and took a minute to admire the lovely pink petals dotting the snowy landscape. Green stone lanterns lit the pathway as they disappeared into the thick fog, and he wondered if the heroes would be able to navigate with the small pale lights. He knew Sonic had a tendency to get lost and much of the area looked quite similar...

"Why do you insist on messing around with my phone, hedgehog?"

White ears perked up at the muffled voice, seeing two familiar shapes through the winter haze.

"Because mine busted remember? Plus I like going through your phone. To be honest I was hoping you'd have some juicy secrets or porn, but there's nothing but cat pictures..."

"Sonic! Shadow!" Silver called, waving a hand in the air. The two rivals looked up from their conversation and spotted the young hedgehog further up the path, sporting a bright purple coat.

"Silver, there you are!" Sonic called as he walked quickly in his direction. Silver seemed unable to contain himself and jogged over to them, giving Sonic a tight hug.

"Its so good to see you guys! I missed you but, well, I know you guys are busy and--"

"Nah, don't sweat it. If you ever wanna hang out just let me know okay?" Sonic replied as he pulled out of the hug, giving his friend a hearty pat on the shoulder. The hero suddenly paused and rolled his eyes dramatically, his gaze narrowing on his brooding partner behind him.

"Enough with the bad vibes, Shadow, you know I can feel that."

"I don't know what you mean." The dark hedgehog said lowly. Silver grimaced at the pointed glare Shadow was giving him, feeling a bit lost on the whole situation.

"You know exactly what I mean, cut it out." Sonic replied sharply.

"Silver's a hugger, its no big deal. Besides I hug Charmy, Tails, sometimes Cream--"

"Don't play coy with me Faker, they're children." Shadow scoffed, seeming more irritated than usual.

"Yeah and they're not the only ones apparently. Anyway, Silver, how ya been?" He whipped around apparently done with the conversation. The white hedgehog was suddenly aware of the tension in the air, and eyed Shadow cautiously before replying.

"I've been okay...? I'm just glad you guys made it. There's something big going on and I can't wait for you two to see it!" He said flapping his hands excitedly.

"Oh, but, that's not until tomorrow night. Blaze got a little irritated when she found out I told you about Press Garden, so I'm making sure I don't spoil anything else."

"Blaze is here...?" Sonic said evenly, his hearty smile fading a little bit at the news.

"Yeah. She visits me from time to time to check on how I'm doing...is that okay?"

"Yeah, of course." The hero replied quickly, placing a hand on a blue hip.

"I just thought something bad was happening when you mentioned her being here. Interdimensional princesses don't just drop outta the sky on the daily and everything."

Shadow glanced in the blue hedgehog's direction, sensing anxiety and guilt fluttering across his wavelength. From what he knew, Sonic was good friends with the purple feline, the two heroes being counterparts from different worlds something that sparked an instant kinship between them. Why was he suddenly anxious to know she was here?

"No, nothing's wrong at all, she comes every year for what's gonna happen tomorrow. She's back at my place. C'mon, its not too far." Silver gestured up the path and led them further into the forest, the lanterns lighting their way even brighter as they went along.

The three hedgehogs walked in silence for some time, Sonic and Shadow's chaos energies battling it out as they walked. Shadow prodded the hero's wavelength and tried to ease his anxiety but Sonic would push him away, a hot trail of anger and embarrassment left along their bond at the gesture. Silver was oblivious to the internal struggle going on between his friends behind him, but the awkward silence was making the young man highly uncomfortable.

Eventually the group came upon a simple wooden archway high above the ground and larger green lanterns planted on either side. Silver sighed heavily, relieved they made it to their destination so soon. He turned to his friends quickly and gestured to a few large hazy shapes just beyond the arch.

"Welcome to Press Village guys!"

Sonic perked up at his friend's voice, realizing he and Shadow had been having a silent argument all to themselves for the past few minutes. Usually he was much more talkative and friendly, especially when seeing someone he hadn't spoken to in ages. A pang of guilt stabbed at his belly and the hero inwardly cursed himself for being so distracted.

As they continued their way through the village the wobbly shapes in the fog became clearer, morphing into ancient green structures with thin tiled roofs. Accents of white marble lined each building and brick wall, with ornamental swirling patterns carved into them. Crimson moss and pink petals covered the homes in a light reddish hue, adding another dash of color and mystique to the small winter village. Sonic noticed the largest building in the area was further away from the others and had a giant metal wheel sticking out of its side, the machine clearly no longer in use as moss sprouted between the spokes.

"I recall that this place was formerly a paper mill for the Doctor, correct?" Shadow asked looking in the white hedgehog's direction. Silver nodded confidently, feeling a little better now the strange hostility from before had left the ultimate life form's demeanour.

"Yep. The locals say that the forest is recovering nicely from all of that though, and they're even able to take proper care of the ruins now. This is their home after all, and I've been helping when I can now and then."

"That's pretty cool, dude!" Sonic replied walking a little further ahead. He was starting to really feel the cold through his jacket now, and wanted to get indoors as quickly as possible.

"Not too many people live out here so it's good that you and your powers can help the ones who do--"

The hero stopped short, spotting a familiar purple cat crouched on the porch of the old mill. Bright yellow eyes widened at the sight of the three hedgehogs, delicate hands pulling an orange shawl tighter over her shoulders. Sonic smiled weakly at the heroine princess, hoping she would return the gesture despite the uncomfortable circumstances.

"Hey, Blaze it's been a while hasn't it?"

She stood slowly and stretched her arms, exhaustion evident on her stern features now that they were face to face.

"Yes it has. How are you?"

"We're hanging in there. How are...how are you?"

"I've...been surviving. As usual." She stated flatly.

While Shadow was well aware of Sonic's twisting anxiety and guilt vibrating across their bond, the princess' drained aura is what caught his attention the most. The dark hedgehog knew that many of their friends were still feeling the brunt of Amy's death but Blaze seemed more affected than he would have anticipated.

While he did not know her well, he admired the purple cat's usual strength and perseverance, and had not expected her to be this broken about the young woman's untimely death.

"You didn't have to wait outside for us, Blaze it's pretty cold." Silver said stepping past the feline princess. He fumbled a bit with something in his pockets before pulling out a small key to unlock the door.

"Don't worry about it. I simply became anxious; you were gone for a while. Besides, I am the princess of flames," Blaze replied hiding a small smile.

"Being in the snow is not an issue for me."

"Says the girl who caught a cold here last time." the white hedgehog said, narrowing his eyes teasingly at his friend. The princess shook her head with a chuckle and followed Silver inside, gesturing for Sonic and Shadow to do the same.

It appeared that the locals had turned the mill into a living space with smaller sectioned rooms and an upstairs. Dark green curtains covered the doorways to each room except the entrance to the kitchen in the back area. On the floor were plush woven pillows settled around a blanketed table, with an old television mounted on the wall. In a far off corner sat an open furnace, filling the main area with a soft red glow. Sonic was aware Silver hadn't been to the future in years, but it appeared he had been living at Press Garden in particular for quite some time.

"Would you guys like something to eat?" The white hedgehog asked cheerfully as he shed his coat.

"Oh yeah, I'd totally go for some food right now dude. What about you, babe?"

Shadow's ears flattened a bit at the pet name; unlike Sonic's closest friends, the ultimate life form had not spent much time around these two. He wasn't sure exactly how much Silver and Blaze knew about them. The hero seemed to pick up Shadow's unease on the matter, as warm vibrant energy nudged his own briefly in apology.

"I don't require it...but I'll admit I've never eaten local food from this area before..."

"Oh that's perfect, I have food already made in the kitchen."

Blaze stepped up, putting a hand on Silver's shoulder.

"Don't trouble yourself, I'll bring the food out to everyone."

"Are you sure? You're still..."

"It's fine.You've been doing so much for me lately, the least I can do is help out a bit."

"Well...alright." he replied hesitantly.

Blaze nodded thanks and turned on the blue hero quickly, intense yellow eyes staring in his direction before making her way into the kitchen.

"Sonic, would you accompany me? It will go faster with two people."

That rampant anxiety from before sprung back into their bond and Shadow locked his jaw reflexively at the feeling as it crawled all over his skin.

"Uh...s-sure!" Sonic replied following after the princess. He noticed the dark hedgehog eyeing him suspiciously but paid no attention to it; he would explain it to him later.

Blaze was leaned over a large cooking pot on the kitchen counter, scooping rice into small bowls with a wooden spoon. The hero was instantly swamped with tangy, spicy smells and spied a smaller pot simmering on the stove.

"Don't even think about it, hedgehog." the purple cat chided him gently, noticing he was slowly inching his way in that direction.

"Think about what? You asked me to help right? Taste testing is helping!"

"Mmm-hmm. Here, take out some silverware why don't you? Its in the drawer beside me."

Sonic shrugged and reluctantly backed off from the stove, pulling open one of the drawers on her side. He glanced in Blaze's direction waiting for her to say something but the princess seemed to be in no hurry, all of her attention focused on the rice bowls.

"So...what did you wanna talk about?" He asked slowly.

"I wanted to know if you were okay."

"That's not all though, is it?"

"It's part of it. Though I was also curious as to what your relationship status is with Shadow, and why Amy set up this trip for you--"

"Why?" Sonic blurted anxiously. Something about the phrase 'relationship status' bothered him. It's not that he was afraid of the idea but...

Blaze pursed her lips into a tight lipped frown, noticing her words caused the hero discomfort.

"I know how she felt about you." She said delicately.

"Amy said she was over you, this I know. She assured me of it. However, knowing she spent so much time on this trip for you is..."

"Is what? Oh."

Sonic avoided her gaze as he fidgeted with a fork absently.

The hero knew he and Amy were nothing more than good friends who cherished each other, and her romantic feelings had died off long ago sometime in their mid teen years. However Blaze wasn't there to witness any of it for herself, so Sonic understood some of her unease at the legitimacy of the matter.

"She didn't...do any of this because she loved me like that, Blaze." He replied placing the utensil on the counter.

"Amy did this for me and Shadow because she loved herself, and her friends. There were no other intentions behind this. Even if there were, I doubt she would have asked you to become involved if she still felt some way about me. She's not disrespectful like that."

"I know...I know that. I don't know why I asked..." She trailed off, shaking her head dismissively.

"Because you loved her, right?"

Blaze sighed deeply and ran a hand down her tired face.

"It's okay. Shadow acts all worried about me too, to a very annoying degree."

"Do you believe I annoyed her?"

"Not from the way she talked about you." Sonic reached out gently, placing an hand over the princess' own.

"I'm...I'm sorry, Blaze."

"Please, don't apologize. Amy explained to me long ago what was wrong and what happened. Besides, I was prepared for this possible outcome for one of us, given our duties to our worlds. Just not so soon."

"...Hey...are you and Silver--"

"No." She replied quickly.

"Yeesh, just thought I'd ask."

"Sorry. Its just you aren't the first one to do so. He's cheerful and affectionate but...I believe we have different needs. However he is a good friend. It was probably lonely for Silver in the future anyway, so I'm happy to spend time with him no matter the time period he chooses."

Sonic nodded absently, seeming distracted by Blaze's words. Green eyes lit up suddenly, the hero slamming the kitchen drawer in excitement before turning to the princess.

"What if-"

"No."

"Chaos, you don't even know what I was going to say!"

Blaze tilted her head and stared out of the kitchen window, a look of disgust washing over her delicate features.

" 'Hey, Blaze, what if we traveled back in time and saved Amy?' " She said suddenly, mimicking the hero's jovial tone.

" 'Sure its dangerous but we're heroes, we can do it no problem!' "

She closed the rice pot with a loud click.

"Did I get that about right?"

Sonic rolled his eyes and turned away, scowling.

"Ok, first off, I don't sound like that."

"Debatable, but go on."

"Second, it's true! If Silver let us do it once, we can do it again. This time I can keep her safe. We can bring her back."

The princess turned to him slowly, her bright yellow eyes narrowing on the blue hedgehog in disbelief. Blaze clenched her jaw as if there was something she wanted to say but decided against it. Finally she crossed her arms and shook her head slowly.

"I cannot believe you're actually that selfish."

"What?"

"And you're supposed to be the hero of your world?"

"Uh, what the hell does that mean?"

"Sonic. Time travel is a dangerous game."

The hero shrugged, a determined expression flashing in his bright green eyes.

"I already know that. It's worth the risk for her."

"Is it now?"

"Why are you looking down on me for this; You loved her didn't you? Aren't you supposed to be wanting her back more than any of us right now? Are you telling me you're too scared to go after her?"

The purple cat bristled.

"I fear nothing."

"Except heights-"

"I know how to live with loss and mistakes. If anyone is afraid around here, its you."

Sonic glared at her and tensed, ready to argue but Blaze lifted a hand pleadingly toward the blue hedgehog.

"Time travel isn't just dangerous for you. Its dangerous for everyone in existence. Silver has spent his entire life trying to delicately fix the future as much as possible, and he keeps coming back to it being destroyed in different ways. The reason he even lives out here away from most of society, is to make sure he doesn't meddle with anything and change the course of time, while he waits for the one solution to fix everything. A solution that may not ever even come."

His body relaxed a little, deflated.

"Wow I...that sucks. I always assumed he stayed just because he liked us; I mean he's been in our timeline for years. I asked him if anything was still wrong but he said 'No', so I thought he settled here for now because we're kinda all he has when it comes to family."

"That is a factor, but not the cause. He may be fidgety and awkward but he still has a lot riding on his shoulders. His mission hasn't completed yet, even after all these years."

"But...what does that have to do with Amy?"

Blaze sighed deeply, seeming frustrated by her counterpart's shortsighted behavior.

"If Silver spends his life trying to find one point in time to fix a catastrophe, what makes you think that your drastic change of saving Amy's life won't cause a butterfly effect to an even worse future? What makes you think that your actions won't cause disaster for my world or countless others, all because you couldn't accept fate?"

"You're being ridiculous, Blaze. Bringing Amy back isn't gonna destroy the world and you know it."

"Nobody knows it Sonic, not even you. However, you already know all of this. I shouldn't have to explain time travel and its effects, because you're well aware of it yourself. Yet you stubbornly wish to meddle with it because you cannot live with what happened to her. We all die someday, what will you do when someone else does?"

"You don't understand Blaze, I need to fix this. Amy didn't deserve to die because of me, and I need to make it right."

The princess put a hand on Sonic's shoulder and gripped it tightly, seeming as if she was using all her strength to stay calm.

"No you don't. Sonic...she spent the last four years bettering herself, becoming comfortable with her life, and helping others do the same. She was happy. So happy..."

Her yellow eyes softened, suddenly filled with emotion.

"Would you really risk destroying the world she wanted to save just to ease your guilt, and take all those accomplishments from her? From me?"

Blaze glanced in the living room and eyed Shadow briefly, her gaze flicking back to the hero and his varsity jacket.

"From yourself?"

Sonic stared blankly in her direction, and for a moment, Blaze wondered if she had said anything inappropriate. Suddenly the hero shouldered her off and walked briskly into the living room.

"Sonic?" Silver replied noticing the hero moving straight past them towards the front door.

"He-hey wait! Sonic! Where's he going?"

Shadow stood up quickly, eyes widened at the latent negativity and confusion bouncing off of his partner as he left. He knew Sonic's anxiety was doing backflips while he was in the kitchen but he had not expected it to escalate...

"What did you say to him?" The dark hedgehog growled as Blaze came out of the kitchen. She put her hands on her hips, seeming more exhausted than before.

"I said nothing to him that he didn't already know himself. Sonic was talking about time travel, and I had to let him know it wasn't a viable option."

Silver's brows narrowed in confusion.

"What? Why? What on Mobius--"

"I'll get him." Shadow replied as he turned on his heel towards the front door. He sighed deeply, knowing his rival was probably halfway across Press Garden by now.

If left alone there was a good chance Sonic could go Dark again, and who knew who would caught in the crossfire this time when it happened. However, Shadow wasn't called ultimate life form for nothing. He could handle this.

But he had to hurry.

Chapter Text

"Faker!" Shadow yelled.

"Faker, where are you?!"

It had been several hours since the ultimate life form had started his search for the hero, and his concern slowly began to morph into irritation. He was able to track Sonic effortlessly through the forest earlier in the afternoon but now a snowstorm was picking up, covering the trail his rival left in the snow. Shadow tried following his chaos energy to track him, but unfortunately their bond worked both ways and Sonic would speed off the moment he sensed the dark hedgehog getting too close.

Every so often Shadow considered quitting and heading back to the village. The hero's rampant energy had winded down over time during their chase, and he was confident Sonic going Dark again wasn't an issue. In any other circumstance, he would have simply waited for the blue hedgehog to come back once he cooled down.

However, something nagged at Shadow to keep going. It didn't feel right to leave Sonic to his own devices, though the ultimate life form was having trouble figuring out why. Either way, he knew that not confronting his partner would eventually result in Sonic avoiding the conversation, and Shadow was pretty tired of brushing things under the rug over and over again.

Red eyes glanced up at the moonlight peaking through pink leaves, its rays reflecting sharply on the sparkling snow. It was getting dark and while Shadow had no problem navigating, Sonic was not as fortunate, especially if he was in a part of Press Garden he had never been to before.

The dark hedgehog began to sense a faint, warm chaos energy and picked up the pace, hoping he would reach his rival before he decided to run off again. To his surprise as Shadow got closer, the energy wavelength didn't move away this time. A low trickling noise reached Shadow's ears as he pressed on, and soon he spotted a small creek up ahead.

The water sparkled with moonlight, its surface dotted with small pink leaves twirling aimlessly as the water flowed out of sight deeper into the forest. Large rocks and fallen trees leaned over the edges of the creek and Shadow figured the Faker was somewhere around here, given all the spaces to hide. His chaos energy was close by and it seemed like Sonic had no intention of escaping this time.

"I know you're out here. You know I know you're out here, so quit hiding."

"I'm not hiding..." A familiar voice trailed off somewhere on Shadow's left. Sonic's form appeared out of the darkness from behind a fallen tree, his emerald eyes bright and intimidating.

"Then why did you stop at the creek?"

Sonic blinked rapidly, avoiding his rival's gaze.

"I got lost."

"Wow."

"Why are you even out here?"

"I can't have you running around like this when your emotions are out of control." Shadow retorted irritably.

"You can't have me running around? Excuse you? I'm an adult. A powerful one at that. I can take care of myself, and I don't need you looking after me."

"Sonic, you and I both know you're having trouble processing this-"

"I don't want to talk about this right now." He replied tersely, walking past the dark hedgehog.

"Look, I'm fine now, see? Let's just go back to the village. I need to apologize to Blaze and Silver for how I acted anyway."

Sharp claws dug into his arm, pulling Sonic to a halt.

"We aren't done here, Faker."

"What now?" The hero snorted.

"I am tired of your attitude, and everything you do is pissing me off."

"Oh wow thanks man, I was gonna say the same to you actually. Peak of romance ain't it?"

"Don't get smart with me. You're acting like a complete idiot over something you could not have controlled."

"Shads, drop it." Sonic said evenly.

"Blaze told me about the time travel idea. Are you really that stupid?" Shadow flinched as his partner snatched his arm away.

"I was just trying to find a way to fix this. Maybe it wasn't the best idea, but Amy didn't need to die because of my mistake! There's gotta be something I can do-"

"There isn't. People die, and we have to live with it, Sonic."

"There's always a way. I always find a way, because I'm the hero; I don't let people down, I don't give up, and don't need you treating me like a damn child! I've saved the fucking world a million times, Shadow I'm not some-some scared little girl that needs to be protected, okay!?"

Something hot flashed across their bond that sent Sonic's stomach plummeting. Shadow's eyes widened a fraction but his body was still, and for a moment the hero wasn't sure what had happened.

"Scared little girl, huh?" The ultimate life form chuckled mirthlessly.

"...Shads..I-I didn't mean it like that, I wasn't talking about-"

"Perhaps you're right, hedgehog," Shadow interrupted, turning away to face the creek.

"Sha-"

"My actions towards you lately could very well be because I couldn't protect someone else precious to me." He shrugged absently. Red eyes flicked up to the hero's own, an unreadable expression on Shadow's face.

"I'm sorry if I've been such a burden on you lately."

"Shadow c'mon, it's not like that..."

"Then what is it like? Sonic, I have spent so much time learning to trust others, to trust you, because you convinced me it was better than being alone. Yet you don't trust me? Have I not earned that, even after all this time?"

The hero put his hands in his jacket pockets, shaking his head slowly. Sonic met his gaze and Shadow was sure the hero was going to take off again, but instead he took a step forward.

"It's not that I don't trust you," He replied breathlessly.

"It's that I don't trust myself."

"What do you mean?"

"Shadow, I'm Sonic the Hedgehog. I saved the world, I beat Eggman, I'm who everyone calls when the world needs saving. No matter what happened, I was always able to fix it. No matter what I felt, I had to keep going until I found a way. I knew that if I faltered for even a fucking second none of us would be where we are today. I can't..."

He ran a hand ran though his blue quills in frustration, letting out a shaky sigh.

"Ever since that day I let Amy down, everything has been falling apart and I'm losing control. Fighting Eggman was so simple, but now that he's gone, everything...i-is so different. I have time to think, and I feel all those things I couldn't afford to feel back then.

I'm afraid that if I give into those feelings, those fears...that I won't be able to come back from them. That if I let go of Amy it means I've given up on her! It means I've fucked up and failed to protect the people I care about most..!"

His expression suddenly twisted into a heated grimace, ears flattening at the thought. He glared at the moon, venomous anger leaking into his tone with every word he spoke.

"What kind of hero am I if I can't even do that much!?"

Shadow winced, feeling the brunt of Sonic's barely contained pain and frustration as it assaulted him with such a wretched, powerful energy he felt nauseous. In the corner of his eye the ultimate life form spotted movement and realized with dread that a familiar dark hazy aura was coming back...

He exhaled deeply, trying to get his body under control.

No. They needed to do this.

"Sonic, the reason things are harder since that incident, is because you refuse to evaluate your feelings about it."

Blue ears perked up indignantly at his words but Shadow continued, not wanting the hero to cut him off again. For a split second he saw green pupils flicker, but perhaps he imagine it...

"You're trying so hard to be unbreakable, believing that is the solution to the problem. However strength is not when you feel nothing, or fear nothing. Strength is when you continue to do what's right in spite of those negative emotions."

Sonic shook his head vehemently, short shaky breaths escaping through clenched teeth. His fur faded navy for a few heartbeats before slowly returning to a bright blue.

"Shads, no, I can't-"

"If I can, then I know you can. As long as I'm here, you don't have to do it alone." He reached out to his rival, black striped hands caressing Sonic's muzzle softly. The hero froze up at the contact, a hot consuming feeling enthralling his senses as Shadow's energy mingled with his own. Emerald eyes flickered and became glossy, their owner trying desperately to blink away tears forming in the corners of his eyes.

"I promised you that I wouldn't let you do it alone."

"Then...How."

"How what?"

"How did you get over losing someone...you swore to protect at the cost of your own life?"

"I didn't."

A black claw swiped delicately over Sonic's cheek.

"You never get over losing someone, but you cannot let their passing consume you either. I don't think I would have ever learned that without meeting you." Shadow wrapped his arms around Sonic's waist and placed a gentle kiss on his temple.

"You saved me from myself. Let me return the favor."

"Shads, stop..." Sonic breathed, pushing against the dark hedgehog's chest. Black arms tightened around him, refusing to let go.

"I'm serious, enough...!"

He struggled a little harder this time, but Shadow had him in a tight grip, not flinching once as his rival pushed harshly against him. Black aura thickened around them as Sonic struggled, his quills rising slightly as crimson eyes bore into the hero, pure determination reflecting in their steady gaze.

"Chaos, Shadow, why the fuck are you doing this...!?" Sonic's voice warped desperately as he thrashed in the ultimate life form's hold. Shadow's grip was starting to loosen a bit now that Sonic was moving around wildly and the hero could feel his chance to escape. Breathing seemed impossible, no matter how hard Sonic tried to force the feelings down, they bubbled up again, stronger, darker than before, if he could just get away-

"It's okay." Shadow whispered roughly.

No it wasn't...!

"Calm down..."

He didn't understand!

"Just breathe."

"Shadow-!"

"She wouldn't want this."

The hero's resolved cracked slightly, feeling the weight of his partners words sink in and seep through the dark clouded frenzy of panic. Briefly he felt Shadow's familiar gentle energy prodding in the back of his mind, trying to break through the haze and reach him, Sonic no longer having the strength to deny it.

"She just...wanted you to be happy."

Shadow loosened his grip on the blue hedgehog, sighing in relief as he relaxed against his chest. The dark aura slowly dissipated into the night fog, as Sonic's quills relaxed and lowered back into place. Pained whimpers fell from the hero's lips and he leaned against his rival, shoulders shaking uncontrollably as he buried his face into Shadow's chest.

A lump formed in the dark hedgehog's throat, his normally impenetrable mind being assaulted by the harshness of Sonic's chaos energy. Rough, raw and anguished, sparking violently and quickly changing from a dull warmth to a blazing fire that burned deep through Shadow's skin. He knew how it felt, he knew what it was like to do everything you could and it still not be enough.

"I..." Shadow said shakily. He went silent for a few heartbeats and cleared his throat.

"I will always be here for you. I promise."

A loud violent sob echoed through the forest, Sonic unable to hold it back any longer. The sound alone broke Shadow to pieces but he said nothing, only gripping his partner tighter as more followed soon after. He stared ahead through the trees and let the hero cry, gently stroking azure quills through the pain as it pulled and resurfaced so much of his own that he had tried so hard to keep away. Shadow wanted to move the hero into a more comfortable position but Sonic gripped him frantically, hiding his face away from the dark hedgehog to preserve what was left of his pride.

It was a long time before the hero stopped, as his harsh anguished sobbing gradually faded into dry coughs and sniffles. He leaned carefully off Shadow's shoulder, and wiped his eyes before facing him directly. To Sonic's surprise the ultimate life form's muzzle was slightly damp, a few stray tears managing to break through the surface.

"...How do you feel?" Shadow asked hoarsely.

"...I just want...I wish- I don't know."

"...Do you feel as if you've given up?"

"I don't know." Sonic repeated, taking slow short breaths to steady himself.

"I feel...kinda better right now but I still feel like shit and and I made you feel like shit along with me. We're...okay though, right?"

"I believe you are the one who always said that everything will be okay as long as we have each other; and I do not plan on leaving you."

Sonic wiped his rival's cheek, smiling weakly at the slight blush on his muzzle. It was getting cold.

"Yeah. We should head back."

"Agreed. We've been away for some time, and the others must be worried. Oh..."

Shadow's ear gave an anxious twitch, his eyes veering to the side for a moment before he spoke. It was clear he wanted to say something but was having trouble forming the words.

"I...wanted to apologize for my possessive, and possibly patronizing, behavior towards you. I just-"

"Nah, dude, don't. You we're just worried about me. I'm just not use to it I guess. Though you wouldn't be Shads if you didn't worry about everything."

The dark hedgehog grunted in response, tugging on the hero's sleeve before heading back toward the village. Sonic followed close behind him trusting that Shadow would be able to get them back before the snow storm got any worse.

For several minutes they made their way quietly through the forest, content with the gentle ebb and flow of their wavelengths against each other. Sonic was still feeling shameful and unsure about his emotional outburst, but the dark hedgehog's strong reassurance soothed over his insecurities every time they bubbled to the surface. He almost couldn't remember what it was like to worry about how Shadow felt and what he thought about him, now that they could feel each other so clearly. It turned out that his rival cared about him far more than he ever could have imagined.

"You know its funny..." Sonic pipped up after a while.

"Hm?"

"A year ago, I never thought you and I would talk to each other again. I wasn't even sure you liked me. Now you're all over me and my first response was to push you away."

" 'All over you' is a bit of a stretch, hedgehog." Shadow growled over his shoulder.

"Agree to disagree," the hero replied.

"but even though it made me mad sometimes...I love it. I love how it feels, I wouldn't have it any other way."

The ultimate life form didn't respond, keeping his eyes forward as they continued on through the dark snowy night in silence once again. However Sonic couldn't hide the hesitant smile on his lips, feeling his partner's wavelength curl lovingly against his own in appreciation.

 

 

"You're back!" Blaze exclaimed as she opened the door, thankful to see the two hedgehogs made their way to the village safely. Sonic stepped quickly into the living room, eager to get inside and warm up by the furnace. Shadow shuffled in after him and shook the snowflakes from his damp black fur.

"We made it, but not in time to beat the blizzard unfortunately."

"Why didn't you teleport back?" The princess asked shutting the door behind them. Shadow glanced hesitantly in Sonic's direction.

"He needed...some time to gather himself before we came straight back. Admittedly, so did I."

"I see. I apologize if any of that was my doing."

"It wasn't. Besides, you said what you needed to say."

The hero shed his jacket quickly, rubbing cold peach arms as he sat down huddled next to the furnace trying to get warm again. It suddenly dawned on him that Silver wasnt in the living room anymore when they arrived.

"Hey where is Silver? He didn't go looking for us, did he?"

Blaze shook her head, a troubled look flashing in her bright yellow eyes.

"He's upstairs. I told him what happened because he was really worried about you two. He just...went to his room."

"Is he alright?"

"He said he was but I doubt it. Though Silver told me he wanted to be alone for a little bit. I decided to give him some time, however I was about to check on him before you came back."

Sonic sighed deeply, glancing toward the staircase before pulling himself away from the furnace.

"I'll go talk to him."

"Are you sure?" Shadow asked, eyeing his partner cautiously.

"Yeah. Don't worry I got this, babe."

"Just don't...say anything stupid, alright?"

"gotcha."

The blue hedgehog took his time going up the stairs, noticing the second floor of the former mill was much larger and spacious than below. The hallway was completely dark and Sonic could barely make out anything beyond the light of an open door at the far end of the hallway. He assumed that was Silver's bedroom.

"Silver?" He called in the doorway and gave a quick courtesy knock on the frame, but there was no answer. Sonic stepped in and found the white hedgehog laying back on his bed, white brows furrowed as he stared at the ceiling in deep concentration.

"Is everything okay?"

"You didn't do it, did you?" He asked softly. Silver's normally enthusiastic voice was so low Sonic almost missed the question.

"No, I didn't-"

"Oh thank Chaos...!" The younger hedgehog gasped rolling over onto his side. He pushed himself up frantically and ran a hand through his long front quills, his voice shaking uncontrollably.

"I was so freaked out when Blaze told me what you wanted to do, and I- I didn't know what to do you if you did do it. I trust you, and you're my friend and stuff but I have no idea if I could fix it if you-"

"Whoa, Silver, calm down buddy-"

"I just-"

"I didn't leave the house to go do any of that." Sonic replied, interrupting his panicked friend. The hero inched his way closer and sat on the bed, patting Silver gently on the back in reassurance. He let out a shaky sigh, gold eyes lowered to the floor unable to meet Sonic's gaze.

"...Am I a jerk for hoping that you failed at trying to save her?"

The question threw Sonic for a loop, but he understood what Silver meant.

"Not anymore than I am a jerk for considering putting the world into chaos for a chance at saving her."

"I...I felt kind of torn you know? Amy has always been good to me, and she was the first person I met here in your time. Blaze is my best friend in the world and I know that she loved her. Even though I knew what you were suggesting was wrong, I still felt horrible for hoping you didn't do it."

Silver laid back on the bed, covering his face with his hands in frustration. Sonic followed his lead and leaned back beside the white hedgehog, putting his arms behind his head as he stared at the ceiling.

"I'm so sorry, Silver."

"It's okay..."

"It's not, though. Imagine if I really did do it, you know? There's no telling how things could have went...and I would have destroyed so many good things that have happened, not just for the world, but for us. For her."

"Yeah, but at the same time, I admire you for being that way."

Sonic snorted.

"For being reckless?"

"Well...no. Yes? I mean for being the way you are when it comes to others. You were even willing to jeopardize your own happiness to save your friend."

"My own happiness?"

Silver rolled over, glancing at the hero curiously.

"It's possible Amy would have never pushed you to hang out with Shadow if you changed the past."

"Yeah, I know."

"Isn't Shadow your happiness?"

"Huh...I guess he is."

Sonic closed his eyes, a small smile quirking at the edge of lips.

"Shit, when did that happen...?"

 

Later on in the night, the two heroes retired to bed downstairs. Blaze suggested they take the second spare bedroom upstairs to sleep, but Sonic insisted on camping in the living room near the furnace. The blue hedgehog hated being cold more than anything, and sleeping while he was freezing always made him feel sluggish in the morning. The temperature made little difference to Shadow so he opted to stay downstairs with the hero; as if he actually had a choice in the matter. Sonic would worm his way into the dark hedgehog's bedsheets regardless.

Downstairs was warm and quiet, the golden glow radiating from Silver's furnace being the only light in the dark room. Sonic and Shadow laid comfortably in a mountain of pillows and blankets that Silver more or less forced them to take when Sonic mentioned he was cold. The ultimate life form felt that they were overdoing it but his partner seemed content with the makeshift nest, the blue hedgehog snuggled closely against his side scrolling through his news feed on Shadow's phone.

"Please go to bed, that light is irritating my eyes."

"You're able to stand extreme heat and cold, but can't handle this tiny light? Wow Shads, that's weak."

"Let me try this again; that light is annoying me, put it away before I break it."

Sonic chuckled a little and kissed his partner's cheek.

"Jokes on you if ya do, it's your phone, babe. Besides, I'm replying to all the people who commented on our photos. What do you expect me to do if ya break it, huh? Write letters?"

"That's no excuse to...oh," Shadow sat up slowly and reached into his quills, rummaging around a bit before pulling something out. Sonic angled the phone's light in Shadow's direction trying to make out what he was reaching for.

"Before I forget, I still have the other letter Amy wrote for us. I figured you would want to hang on to it." He handed the letter to Sonic, putting his arm up to block out the light.

"Seriously, don't shine it directly at my face..."

"Ah sorry," The hero replied, turning the light toward the envelope Shadow gave him instead. He ran a thumb over the single word 'Later', Amy's heavy-handed nature causing each dip and curve to leave small indents in the paper.

"If you want to open it now, its fine with me." The dark hedgehog replied softly.

Sonic tilted his head, seeming to consider the option.

"Honestly...all I really want right now, after today, is for her tell me everything is going to be okay." He turned to Shadow, unable to make out much of anything except his rival's crimson glowing eyes.

"As much as I want to do it though, I won't open it now. I'm gonna wait like I said I would."

"That's fine too. I figured you would answer that way."

Sonic blinked.

"Then...why did you ask me?"

"If it puts you at ease, and helps you cope to read it, ultimately that's all that matters to me. However, I think your decision to wait like she intended shows that you haven't changed at all, even though you were afraid you'd be different after accepting her death."

"I don't know...how I feel about it right now. Sad, obviously, but..." The hero trailed off as he placed the envelope into his quills. Sonic clicked the light off on the phone soon after, unable to see in the darkness but knowing exactly where to reach.

"I'm just glad I don't have to figure it all out by myself."

Shadow gave a small grin, feeling his partner's rough firm hands make their way over his chest. They were still a little cool to the touch but it felt good in an odd way, the sensation sending a lovely shiver down his spine. He pulled the hero closer, focusing some of his chaos energy into Sonic's own and hoping to warm him up a little more. A breathy sigh in the darkness and arms squeezing gently around his waist let Shadow know his kind gesture was greatly appreciated.

"No matter what happens, I will be here to help you through it." he replied.

"I promise."

Chapter Text

Like this?

No, it still didn't look right.

Sonic glanced over at Silver, examining how the younger hedgehog had his outfit. The dark blue fabric was neatly folded over his chest and draped in a similar fashion as the example in the picture on Shadow's phone.

Maybe he was doing it wrong...?

"Okay it's been twenty minutes, I'll just help you out." Silver sighed pulling himself up from the couch.

"Dude, I don't know what I'm doing, that was clear fifteen minutes ago." The hero shrugged, trying to keep the fabric from falling onto the floor. He sighed in frustration and rolled his eyes dramatically in his friend's direction.

"I've never worn a yuka before, and you've lived in Press Garden for like, what, eight years? Cut me some slack."

"It's pronounced yukata," the white hedgehog replied, pushing Sonic's hands out of the way. He bent down low to pick up the fallen ribbon on the ground.

"and its basically like wearing a robe; Shadow seemed to do pretty well with his, so I just assumed you'd figure it out."

"Its way too cold for this thing. Where are we going again?"

"To a festival! It's awesome, you'll see once we catch up with Shadow and Blaze. As for being cold, you can always wear your jacket under the yukata. It's what everyone else does."

"Oh sweet." Sonic replied as he shrugged the fabric off and reached for his varsity on the couch. Silver waited patiently for the blue hedgehog to slip on his jacket under the yukata before tying the ribbon firmly around his waist.

"There!" Silver said triumphantly, patting Sonic's shoulder once everything was in place. He stepped back and took a moment to give the hero a quick once over.

"I'm glad I gave you this one in particular; its a little bland with only a few weird patterns on it but it works. Black looks good on you."

Sonic couldn't hide the sly grin making its way onto his muzzle.

"Yeah, I'm well aware how good black looks on me."

"Oh..." Silver blinked, seeming slightly taken aback.

"...that's good?"

"No, dude, I was making a joke because Shadow- ah, nevermind."

"Uh...okay. So, you ready to go?"

"Oh, no not yet." The hero replied picking up Shadow's phone from the coffee table. He tapped quickly on the screen before lifting the phone high above his head and giving a flirtatious smile. A sharp click sounded shortly after and Sonic brought the phone back down, nodding in satisfaction at the photo.

"Ah, you're taking pictures for the blog thing right?"

"Yep. Well, that, and I know my audience. Oh, what do I tag this...what's the name of this festival again?"

"Its the Petal Festival," Silver tapped his chin thoughtfully.

"Though I don't think most people will know what that really means, since Press Garden is a secluded place."

"What it means?"

"The Petal Festival is a very intimate Fall celebration in Press Garden. Most people, from what I've seen, usually bring their closest friends and family." Silver clapped his hands together in excitement.

"You'll love it, trust me. Amy and Blaze would come every year with me! Oh, and at the end, there's this really beautiful ceremony. Though a lot of people use it to mourn those that couldn't be with them this year at the end of the festival, so I think it would be...good...for..."

The white hedgehog trailed off, gold eyes averting the hero's gaze as the words turned to ash in his mouth. Sonic blinked, stone faced.

"Uh...Sorry."

"It's okay."

"I only said it because...I thought it would help..."

"No, no, I get it."

Silver shuffled his feet awkwardly.

"Is that something you would...want to do?"

"I don't think so. I wanna go at this at my own pace, privately." Sonic said softly.

"Right, right, that makes sense."

"Thanks for the offer though."

It was silent for a few heartbeats, the two heroes looking everywhere around the room except at each other. Sonic took the opportunity to busy himself with posting the picture, a small ding from the upload breaking the uncomfortable silence. Silver pipped up suddenly, his voice cracking a bit and higher than usual.

"...L-Let's uh...let's go catch up with Shadow and Blaze huh?"

 

 

Shadow was pleasantly surprised that a secluded, quite place could suddenly be so lively.

When he and Sonic arrived at Press Village they had hardly seen anyone besides the occasional mobian walking into their home. Though to be fair, the dark hedgehog understood Press Garden's cold weather made it less likely to see people wandering about outside.

Now however, the small village was bursting with life, its inhabitants laughing and playing in the cool night air. Bright lanterns hung on string lights high above in the trees, giving everything around them a hazy golden glow. Colorful booths were stationed everywhere, each of them with a different game and all sorts of alluring prizes that even the grumpiest of ultimate life forms couldn't resist. Spicy scents of the local cuisine teased at Shadow's nose, causing him to linger around a few of the concession stands a bit longer than he would like to admit. Citizens were adorned with elegant yukatas ranging from simple blues to vibrant reds with elaborate patterns. Time seemed to slow down as the night went on around him and Shadow sighed deeply, drinking in the playful atmosphere of the festive village.

"Would you like one?"

He turned slightly to see Blaze walking up beside him, the princess sporting a lovely pink yukata with transparent yellow petals. In her hand she held what resembled small meaty kebabs, causing Shadow's nose to twitch at the savory smell.

"What is it?"

"It's called Yakitori I believe. Its chicken. Honestly one of my favorite festival foods here." She held one out to him, prompting the dark hedgehog to have a taste. Reluctantly Shadow grabbed one, giving it a cautious sniff before quickly taking a bite. Crimson eyes lit up at the taste and the princess couldn't resist a gentle smirk at his reaction.

"Oh...this is good..." Shadow commented, talking around the mouthful of food as he went in for another piece. His ears perked slightly at Blaze's soft chuckle and he covered his mouth, fawn cheeks immediately flushed red with embarrassment.

"Forgive me," She sighed putting a hand on her hip.

"I've just never seen you so...oh, what's the word...expressive? Comfortable? It seems that Sonic is rubbing off on you. I was actually surprised you agreed to come with me while waiting for him to get dressed. You two are joined at the hip."

Shadow took his time as he chewed the second piece, swallowing before he replied.

"It would have taken him forever, and I was eager to see what the Petal Festival was about."

"Ah, it's about many, many things. The villagers believe the Fall season is about family, togetherness, loss, and love. There is even a ceremony at the end they have to symbolize those feelings. Many use it to mourn those they've lost or use it to honor those close to them."

Red eyes glanced sideways at the wistful tone in Blaze's voice.

"Which one...do you plan to do?"

Yellow met red thoughtfully.

"Which one do you?"

The reply was neither a spiteful rebuttal nor a challenge, but a simple question that held more weight than Shadow anticipated.

"The festival holds many opportunities, Shadow." the princess said carefully once she realized the ultimate life form was at a loss for words.

"Do not waste them; you may never get another chance."

Shadow nodded sagely, able to read in between the lines and take Blaze's cryptic warning into consideration. The purple feline was far more perceptive than most of Sonic's friends. Not only was she aware of the change in their relationship but also that they had not properly defined it.

"Why do you suggest I do this now?"

The princess gave a sad smile, her gaze wandering to the glowing lanterns above.

"This is not the first time I have been to Press Garden for Petal Festival, but it is the first time I have come alone. I know what it's like to wait too long and never get the chance to see your efforts come to fruition."

Shadow stiffened.

Suddenly her behavior from the night before began to make sense.

"I was unaware you..."

"I do not visit this dimension often and very few people knew the nature of my relationship with Amy beyond Sonic and Silver. Do not trouble yourself with an apology." Blaze replied as she took a delicate bite out of her meal. Her expression lit up briefly, sharp eyes focused intently over his shoulder.

"Speaking of..." the princess whispered before gesturing behind him. Shadow felt Sonic's rampant energy making it way toward them, the blue hedgehog waving through the crowd with Silver following close behind. Impatient as ever, the hero weaved quickly through the villagers and stopped short in front of his rival.

"Shads! There you ar-whoa..." Sonic breathed, taking a moment to admire Shadow in the dim lantern light. The ultimate life form was adorned in a bright white yukata with faded green leaves dappling the lower half and up the sleeves.

"This-...you look good. Heh, I'm getting flashbacks from you in a suit. You look good in everything huh?"

"I could say the same for you."

Blue eyelids lowered a fraction, the hero's voice taking on a sultry tone.

"Well, not to brag, but 've been told black looks especially good on me."

A sly smirk flashed on Shadow's muzzle.

"I know."

Blaze cleared her throat, a thin eyebrow raised as she looked down her nose at the two hedgehogs.

"If you're quite finished..."

"Right! Sorry, sorry haha. So what's on the agenda for tonight? This festival looks amazing, I can't wait to see what cool stuff these guys do here!"

Shadow glanced at the princess for a moment before giving his full attention to the blue hedgehog.

"We can explore the festival and see what we find...I only have one thing planned later on."

"You do?" Sonic bit his lip as gentle waves of arousal trickled from his Chaos energy, brushing against the dark hedgehog's own.

"Not like that, pervert." Shadow replied dryly.

"There is something I wish for us to do toward the end of the festival."

The hero's face fell slightly, arousal quickly replaced with concern and anxiety before Sonic's energy retreated back into himself. The reaction confused Shadow immensely, but he allowed his partner to have some space.

"Is...that alright?"

"Yeah, yeah it's fine..."

His energy told a different story and the ultimate life form was no fool. It was unlikely Sonic knew anything about his plans; this was his first time at the festival as well. However...he was with Silver for a very long time only moments ago. Did Silver tell him about the ceremony at the end of the festival? About becoming closer?

Was the hero...afraid of hearing what Shadow wanted to tell him?

"Geez, I keep forgetting how fast you are!" Silver chimed in as he arrived with the rest of the group. Relief washed over Sonic's features as he turned to the white hedgehog, seeming thankful for the distraction.

"Yeah, fastest thing alive, remember? Hey so, you're the local here out of all of us. Any suggestions on what we should do first?"

"Oh yeah! I have just the thing!" Silver exclaimed as his eyes lit up in excitement.

"There's a bottle stack game not far from here that has the biggest pink platypus plushies!"

"Oh Chaos, that's like my favorite animal dude, I have to get one! Think you can handle a toy platypus this time, babe?" Sonic jibbed as he nudged the ultimate life form in the ribs.

Shadow grimaced and rolled his eyes before giving his rival a wary glare.

"Careful hedgehog, I warned you about bringing up the platypus thing again."

Blaze tilted her head, obviously curious.

"The...'platypus thing'?"

Red eyes bore deeply into the hero, Shadow daring him to test his patience. However, the dark hedgehog was well aware Sonic was never one to back down from a challenge.

"Oh man, okay so like, Shads swore they weren't real so I showed him one and- O-ow! Let go of my ear dude, cmon!"

 

 

Sonic hated to admit it, but as time went on he became anxious. Horribly, horribly anxious.

Throughout the night the four friends explored the festival as a group, following Silver as he showed them several different games and events. The young hedgehog seemed more excited than ever to have guests to entertain and even introduced them to many of the local residents. Sonic noticed that Blaze also seemed to be in much higher spirits since they arrived. She even agreed to be in some of the festival pictures he took for the trip.

However, as hard as he tried, the blue hedgehog couldn't shake the anxiety Shadow's intense stare was giving him. The ultimate life form obviously wanted to talk about something, his normally steady wavelength vibrating with unease. Sonic was afraid of what his rival wanted to talk about at the end of the festival. Silver had told him the locals used it to mourn the dead, and the last thing he wanted right now was to be vulnerable in front of a bunch of strangers. Surely Shadow understood that...?

Though the more Sonic thought about it, Shadow probably figured it would be good for him. He attended Amy's funeral and said a proper goodbye with millions of others, while the hero himself decided to stay away at the last minute. Perhaps the ultimate life form thought that having a traditional farewell would help ease the pain now that Sonic was accepting her passing. It definitely sounded like something Shadow would do.

However the fact he seemed to be so insistent on doing it was incredibly annoying.

"Your turn, Sonic." Blaze called handing him a small white ball. The blue hedgehog blinked in confusion for a moment before taking it from her, completely lost in his own thoughts.

"Are you sure you want to give it to him again?" Silver pipped up leaning on the table of the prize booth.

"No offense, but we've been to this platypus booth like four times and not one of us has hit all of the bottles...especially Sonic. And this is the last turn before they close."

"Trust me dude, I've got it this time! I've got the power of the platypus on my side!" The hero said casually as he wound up his swing, prepared to toss the ball. Suddenly a hand grabbed at his wrist, throwing him off balance.

"Perhaps...I can do it this time?" Shadow proposed as he lowered his partner's arm.

"I suppose it's only fair," The princess replied.

"Shadow hasn't played any of the games yet, we should let him try this one before they close."

Sonic hesitated. He wanted to win the plushie and have at least something to take home from his first time at the festival. However Blaze made a valid a point; and the hero figured that he had been invited to far more events like this than his stoic partner. Eventually, Sonic allowed the dark hedgehog to take the ball from him.

"Just don't waste it, okay?"

"I never miss; it won't be a waste."

Sonic gave a lopsided grin.

"Uh, okay? Just aim for the bot-"

The sudden shatter of glass nearly caused the hero to jump out of his skin. Blaze seemed mildly alarmed and Silver looked as if he had trouble understanding exactly what had happened. Even the booth vendor was at a loss for words, blinking rapidly at the shattered remains of the topmost stack of glass bottles.

The ultimate life form had thrown the ball so hard that it not only destroyed its targets, but left a small ball-shaped hole in the back of the cloth tent.

"...Do I win?"

"Y...yes of course!" The booth vendor sputtered. Though Sonic had the distinct feeling even if he had missed, she still would have let him win.

"Which p-prize would you like?"

"The pink platypus." Shadow replied instantly.

Without hesitation the vendor picked one of them up quickly and handed it over to him. Shadow turned to thank her, but the woman had dived behind the tent curtains, eager to close the booth.

"Geez Shads, you didn't have to scare the poor lady. There's a reason I didn't chuck the balls with all my strength, especially since I kept missing."

"If it's a stationary target, I never miss." Shadow replied dryly, a smirk teasing his lips at Sonic's irritated expression. He tapped the plush toy gently against the hero's muzzle.

"Which is why I insisted on taking the shot. Here."

"Wait, this is for me?"

"Of course. This is what you wanted right?"

Sonic blushed, shouldering the pink plush toy awkwardly.

"Well yeah! Thanks, babe."

Out of the corner of his eye, Shadow noticed many other booths shutting down for the night. Several villagers were migrating down a beaten path deeper into the forest, some carrying paper lanterns and small candles. Silver seemed to notice this as well, bringing his hands together eagerly before turning to the group.

"Oh they're getting ready for the ceremony! We should head down to the river with the rest of the crowd, guys."

"Of course. Sonic, Shadow, are you coming?" Blaze asked pointedly, her gaze landing on Shadow in particular. He nodded, catching her unspoken hint immediately.

"Yes, we-"

"No..!" Sonic interrupted.

"No...?"

"I just...I mean...I don't want to."

It was silent between them, all eyes on the hero waiting for him to explain. Instead, Sonic crossed his arms and sighed in exasperation.

"I just want to be by myself right now."

The princess seemed horribly confused but Silver nodded immediately, gently grabbing her arm and pulling her along.

"No problem Sonic, I understand. Come on, lets hurry up before they start."

"...Ah...right."

Blaze glanced back at the two hedgehogs for a moment before following slowly after her friend.

Shadow watched them leave, waiting for a few seconds until they were out of sight. Unfortunately, that's all the time Sonic needed to quickly make his way out of the village. The dark hedgehog sighed, noticing he left the pink plush toy on the empty booth. Shadow picked it up and followed after the hero, his footprints leaving a clear path through the deep snow.

He was at least thankful Sonic did not seem to be running away like he did the night before. While the blue hedgehog was still moving faster than most people, his gait was rather slow and listless as if he were on a casual run. Shadow was able to catch up with little effort and ran beside him, speeding up a fraction to cut Sonic off from the front.

"Where are you going?"

"Nowhere!" Sonic replied skidding to a halt.

"I just want to be alone right now, is that so bad?"

Shadow stared at him, bewildered.

"But...why?"

The hero sighed, kicking his feet for a moment before replying.

"I know what you're trying to do. I appreciate it, really, but I don't want to do this. I need time, I need to go at this my own pace. I'm not ready, and I have no idea when I will be...but until then...just let me be. Okay?"

Shadow stared at him completely stone faced, and the blue hedgehog waited patiently for what was to come. He was being honest with his feelings this time, and Sonic expected Shadow to either nod in understanding, or become irritated at his stubbornness.

What he did not expect, was what flared violently along their bond; the crushing feeling of rejection.

"I see." the ultimate life form responded slowly.

"I want you to know I really I appreciate it, and everything you do for me. " Sonic replied walking over to his partner. He wasn't sure why, but it was obvious Shadow took it personally. Regardless, the urge to comfort took over and the hero leaned in, attempting to give Shadow an affectionate kiss on the lips. He flinched as his rival nudged him back, turning away from Sonic entirely.

"Don't." He growled.

"Just don't."

"What...? I don't understand why you're taking this so..." Sonic trailed off, noticing a strange golden glow radiating behind Shadow through a thicket of bushes. Wordlessly the hero walked past him and made his way toward the light. Shadow followed close behind, curious as to what had caught his partner's attention during such an important conversation.

"What the hell are you doing?"

"I saw something...wait there! Look!" Sonic pointed to a winding river a few feet away bathed in a bright, shining light. The blue hedgehog ran over quickly and crouched low beside the water, gazing at the sparkling surface.

"Whoa dude..." He gasped, gesturing for Shadow to join him by the side of the river.

"Come here, you have to see this!"

The ultimate life form cautiously walked over and stood beside his rival, red eyes blown wide at the sight in front of him.

Hundreds of small lanterns and candles floated down the river on tiny wooden rafts. Each one was delicately handmade and unique, some with folded notes and others with ribbons or flowers tied to them. The bright lights danced over the water, leaving beautiful starry reflections along the dark surface. The snow covered riverbank sparkled softly with their glow, as the lights floated like listless fairies downstream and out of sight.

The two hedgehogs sat in silence for a long time, nothing but the tranquil sound of the river filling the air between them. Shadow sighed and spared a glance over at the blue hero.

Sonic seemed enthralled by the lanterns, Green emerald eyes illuminated by their gentle glow. The hero looked almost ethereal from this angle, the moon casting soft shadows over his lithe form. His peach muzzle was dusted with a rosey pink and his lips curved in a delicate grin. All the anger and rejection Shadow felt building up from before was washed away instantly as he gazed at his partner.

It frightened him once he realized that even though Sonic's words earlier had hurt, the ultimate life form still could not bring himself to feel anything but pure affection for his partner even now.

Carefully Shadow nudged his chaos energy in Sonic's direction, silently hoping that the hero would react. The soft gesture was returned tenfold, as the blue hedgehog's vibrant, warm energy encircled his own and pulled him in. Shadow took the response as permission to continue, and urged his body to move, making slow precise movements in Sonic's direction.

Something in his gut told him that if the hero rejected his confession, but welcomed intimacy that this was a dangerous move to play, but Shadow pushed the feeling into the deepest corners of his mind.

Once peach lips brushed against his own, the feeling dissolved altogether.

Heat enveloped the dark hedgehog's body, as he leaned into the kiss, the hero's warm tongue exploring his every inch of mouth, small canines biting into the sensitive flesh of his lips. Sonic tasted amazing, possibly more now than ever, and Shadow eagerly swallowed down every soft noise that escaped between them. He felt Sonic pull away, gasping slightly due to the lack of air and the dark hedgehog realized with slight embarrassment that he prolonged the kiss a little longer than his partner could take.

Sensing his unease, the hero pressed his forehead to Shadow's and gave him a gentle nuzzle. Their chaos energies wreathed together, soothing Shadow's nerves with endless waves of reassurance and affection so strong, they overwhelmed him body and soul.

"I love you."

It slipped.

Shadow inwardly cursed himself.

He waited there for a few heartbeats, expecting to feel a change. To hear Sonic hesitate, to sense his muscles tensed and eager to run away, to experience the cold harsh feeling of his partner's energy pulling away into himself where he would never feel its warmth ever again.

But Sonic stayed.

Even more surprising, he spoke.

"...Do you really mean that...?"

Shadow hesitated, unable to tell if giving the true answer was the correct one.

"I know you didn't want to hear it. However, I am a firm believer of telling others the truth; and I love you. More than anything in the world, more than I thought was capable for someone like myself."

Blue ears perked up slightly and Sonic lifted his head away to face the dark hedgehog. He placed both hands on either side of Shadow's head holding it in place. Green eyes glared into his own, a barely contained fire raging in his gaze.

"Who told you that I didn't want to hear it?" Sonic drawled slowly, everything about his tone telling the dark hedgehog his rival was looking to have a few words with whoever the culprit was.

Shadow's eyes narrowed.

"You did. If I recall your exact words were; 'I appreciate it, really, but I don't want to do this.' "

"For the love of- Shads, I was talking about going to mourn Amy at the ceremony!" Sonic replied, releasing him and shaking his head in disbelief.

"Why did you think I was asking you about that?"

"Silver told me that's what the end of the festival is about, all those lanterns and stuff!"

"Sonic...the ceremony is for connecting with loved ones both alive and gone. It is not a funeral. I was asking you to come with me so I could...say what I intended to say."

"So when you were acting all weird- and I- when I said- oh, Chaos..." The hero groaned, dragging a hand down his face in exasperation.

"Man I'm so sorry about that, making you think I didn't want you."

"It was a misunderstanding, It's alright."

"No it's not...I really hurt you, and even then, you still kissed me. You still...loved me."

Shadow nodded and placed a hand on the hero's shoulder.

"I still do now."

The hug was forceful and unexpected, but the ultimate life form eased into it regardless, the feeling of Sonic's embrace enough to sate his frayed nerves.

"I love you too."

As long as Shadow had anticipated those words, they still shocked him to his core.

Peach fingers trembled as they gripped the white fabric desperately, a small part of Sonic fearing that Shadow would suddenly disappear if he let go of him.

Strong dark hands wrapped around the blue hedgehog's waist pulling him closer, as Shadow buried his face into the crook of Sonic's neck. The world seemed to fall silent as they held each other, both hedgehogs afraid go let go and fearing the possibility that none of it was real at all.

"...Can I tell you a secret?" the hero asked carefully.

"Of course."

"I'm scared."

"That's not a secret."

"It's a secret when it's me."

"Whatever you're afraid of, we can face it together as always." Shadow replied instantly. Sonic chuckled, rubbing the dark hedgehog's back in small gentle circles.

"Heh...that's actually what I'm afraid of. I've never done this."

"I was under the impression you've had relationships before."

"Oh, I have. I've had many. Too many..." He eased off of Shadow's shoulders, reaching up to caress a black ear.

"What I mean is, I've never done this. Being...'deep' with someone if that makes sense."

"Ah...neither have I. The only time I recall having this much affection for someone else was Maria...but this is vastly different."

"So we're both newbies then? That's a relief." Sonic whispered as he leaned in, placing a kiss on his partner's fawn muzzle.

"Don't worry though, I got you."

Shadow smirked and gave a quick nod.

"And I have you."

He glanced back at the river, noticing the small rafts were thinning out as they went by. The ceremony was probably coming to an end and Shadow figured they should head back before it got too dark. Sonic had the same idea, and stood up stretching his tired limbs.

"We should hurry back, you look tired."

"Yeah...well, wait. I want to put something in the river too."

Shadow cocked an eye ridge.

"I thought you didn't want to participate in the ceremony."

"It's different when it's just us."

"Well unfortunately we don't have candles or anything significant to put in the water."

"Not true," The hero smiled, his gaze lowering to the stuffed animal wedged under Shadow's arm. He followed Sonic's eyes ,and lifted up the toy, a breathless chuckle escaping his lips.

"You want to put the toy in the river?"

"It's a platypus; they're made for the water!"

" You don't mind? I know you really wanted this, and its your favorite animal. "

"Yeah but I really wanna put something in that I care about, and I can't chuck you in there. Plus its pink, just like her."

The dark hedgehog blushed at his answer but said nothing, lowering the toy into the water. Somehow the pink platypus seemed to fit right in among the small glowing lights, its tiny pink eyes glimmering before it slowly disappeared down the stream with the other rafts.

Sonic watched the last flickering candles float away, the once bright river now dark, save for the gentle rays of moonlight. A warm hand reached out in the night and grabbed his own, and the blue hedgehog gave it a brief reassuring squeeze.

"Ready to go, Love?"

"Yeah," the hero sighed.

"It actually felt kind of good to- wait."

he narrowed his eyes in Shadow's direction and instantly the ultimate life form knew he made a terrible mistake.

"Did you just give me a pet name?"

"No." he tugged Sonic's arm roughly urging him to follow back to the village.

"Yes you did! Say it again! Please?"

"I swear to Chaos this is why you're so annoying."

"Oh shut up, you know love me."

"Yes," Shadow admitted, trying his best to hide a playful smirk.

"Though for the life of me I don't know why."

Chapter Text

That night, Shadow slept better than he ever had in his entire life.

After confessing his feelings to Sonic, the blue hedgehog seemed even more clingy than before, and that was perfectly fine with him. The gentle kisses and petting became more frequent throughout the night, enough for Blaze to suggest separating the rowdy hedgehogs at the dinner table. Silver seemed to enjoy just having company, and didn't particularly mind hearing the sweet nothings the hero would whisper sensually into his rival's ear; either that or he pretended not to.

Judging from how much alcohol the white hedgehog drank later into the night, Shadow assumed it was the latter.

Once everyone went in bed, and the house became quiet, the two hedgehogs could barely contain themselves in their makeshift nest on the living room floor. Sonic was relentless in his pursuit of affection from the dark hedgehog, nipping and caressing every inch of Shadow's body his wandering hands could reach. He had to remind the hero that they were guests and having relations in such a thinly walled home would not only be disrespectful, but also might summon a rather angry fire princess from her sleep. Eventually Sonic complied, but not without requesting some intense spooning in return for his cooperation and Shadow was more than happy to oblige.

Soon they became nothing but a tangled mess of soft touches, stolen kisses and hushed giggles until they gradually fell asleep, still cuddled firmly in each other's arms.

Which is why Shadow was particularly upset that his sleep was disturbed around 5am by a certain purple cat to go on a 'boat trip'.

"We're doing what...?" Sonic whine as he rolled over lazily onto his back. Peach arms reached out and pulled his rival closer, snuggling himself into Shadow's side. Blaze let out an amused snort and kicked the hero lightly.

"We're going out on the water for a little bit."

"Wait, we're doing what? " Sonic repeated, suddenly a lot more awake than he was before.

"The water. In a boat."

"Don't tell me you're still afraid of water, hedgehog." Shadow replied.

"No I'm not afraid, I just...I just don't like not being able to go anywhere is all."

"Uh-huh."

"Why are we going on a boat again? C-can't we just chaos control to wherever we need to go?"

Blaze shook her head, a smile teasing at the edge of her lips at Sonic's reluctance.

"Amy specifically requested that the two of you get there without teleporting because its a surprise. Besides its not far; about an hour ride away."

"Ugh...okay." The blue hedgehog groaned and rubbed his neck nervously.

"Chaos, that's a long time..."

"Oh you'll be fine, I assure you. I'll get us some snacks, you two hurry up and put the blankets away. Silver is waiting for us at the docks."

Yellow eyes held a hint of mischief as the princess made her way past the two hedgehogs toward the kitchen.

"Don't worry, Hero. If you fall overboard I'm sure someone will fish you out." She called over her shoulder.

"Eehhhhhhh..."

Shadow's calm wavelength washed over his own in reassurance, easing some of the tension building up in the hero's chest. A warm hand slipped gently around Sonic's hip and gave it a light squeeze.

"Are you going to be okay?" he asked softly once Blaze was out of earshot.

"I'll be alright, it just makes me a little jittery is all. Besides, Amy wouldn't put me on a boat if she thought I couldn't handle it- which I totally can."

"...Right." Shadow dryly.

"Just don't be afraid to come find me if you feel uncomfortable. I won't think any less of you for it."

"No babe, c'mon, I got this. How bad could it be?"


It was far worse than Sonic ever could have imagined.

Well, Blaze said he was overreacting, but what did she know?

It was raining lightly by the time the group met up with Silver and a swarthy wolf mobian waiting at the edge of the village on the docks. The small leisure boat was dingy but appeared sturdy enough, and the wolf capitan assured them that the ride would be safe. However, this did little to ease Sonic's anxiety as he eyed the dark grey waters lapping at the shore. But the hero was determined to keep a brave face around Blaze, and especially around Shadow.

Just because the dark hedgehog was his lover now didn't change the fact they were still rivals.

However, it had only been a few minutes into the boat ride and Sonic was already losing his nerve. The light rainy weather made the boat rock and keen more than normal, though it was nothing the seasoned captain at the helm couldn't handle. Blaze busied herself with giving the man directions to their destination, while the rest of the group relaxed in the small cabin below deck.

Though the hero was feeling anything but relaxed.

Blue legs fidgeted and bounced as Sonic tried his best to remain still. The enclosed space was easier to handle than being outside, but as time went on it became harder for the hero to stand. Every lurch and dip caused his fur to rise anxiously, eyes darting around the room each time the boat moved.

Shadow couldn't help but notice his partner's blue ears swiveled continuously, listening for every creak and moan as if the vessel was seconds away from falling apart.

"You'll be fine, you know that right?"

Sonic narrowed his eyes.

"Of course I do! I-"

The boat dipped again and his ears flattened quickly.

"...I just don't like it."

Silver flashed the blue hedgehog a sympathetic smile and reached into the cooler full of snacks nearby.

"Maybe some lunch will take your mind off of the ocean." He pulled out a water bottle with some apples and placed them in Sonic's lap.

"That is, if you think you can handle at least bottled water." Shadow drawled, giving his rival a pointed look.

"Don't make me come over there Shads, I will-"

Suddenly the boat stopped, causing all three hedgehogs to jerk forward onto the cabin floor. Objects on the cluttered shelves flew in all directions and pelted them as they fell down. Shadow narrowly missed being skewered in the eye by his partner's sharp quills as the hero fell backwards on top on him.

"What the hell was that?!" Sonic panted.

"D-Did we crash?"

"No...I don't think so..."Silver chimed in from further away, sounding a little dazed. He sat up slowly and glanced around before placing a palm flat on the wooden floor.

"We've just stopped...?"

"Sorry about that, kids!" The captain's gruff voice called loudly from somewhere above deck.

" 'stopped a little too late and ran right up on the shore!"

Hearing that they had hit dry land was all Sonic needed to hear.

A rush of pure joy flittering through their bond was the only warning Shadow had before the hero disappeared from his side and rushed up the stairs out of the cabin. Shadow followed at a slower pace and leaned over the deck rail, taking in their location and getting his bearings.

Their destination was a rather small piece of land; the ultimate life form estimated it was about the size of Casino Park if not smaller. Along the damp shore were large rocks embedded in the sand along with occasional seashells peeking out from the shallow waters. Lush tropical plants thickened deeper into the island as far as he could see, palm trees and vines swaying in the stormy breeze.

From what Shadow could tell the island seemed quite unremarkable, and he was sure that he had never been here before.

"Where's Sonic?" Silver asked coming up from below deck.

"He jumped off the boat a moment ago."

"Ah, I wonder if this is the place then..."

"Where exactly are we?"

"If our calculations are correct, we should be right where Amy told us to be." Blaze replied making her way past the two hedgehogs toward the edge of the ship. Briefly she leaned over the railing and scanned the sand, her gaze settling on a familiar blue blur heading back toward the vessel.

The hero skidded to a halt and gazed up at them, green eyes alight with an excited expression Shadow couldn't quite read. Sonic's chaos energy was sparking erratically and for a moment the dark hedgehog was worried something bad had happened during his short run around the island. A smile teased at Sonic's muzzle and he gestured quickly for Shadow to come down with him.

Curious, Shadow jumped off the edge of the boat and jogged over to his partner, concern creasing his brow at the blue hedgehog's excitement.

"I take it you recognize this place?" Blaze called.

"Yeah!" Sonic replied breathlessly.

"H-how did you find-"

"Amy found it, though I'm not entirely sure how. I would say its the work of her many fans that helped her out, combined with Silver's local knowledge."

"Yeah, the Press Garden villagers use this place as fishing island in the Summer season." Silver gestured farther into the trees behind them.

"There's an empty shack a few yards away for you guys to stay in."

"Are you not coming down with us?" Shadow asked curiously.

"Nah, this is just for you two!"

"Amy's instructions were very specific. She wanted you to stay here overnight before you head toward your next location. We were told only to drop you off. We'll be heading back."

The dark hedgehog frowned, still at a loss on exactly what they were supposed to be doing here. Before he could ask, Sonic nodded quickly and gave their friends a short wave.

"We'll be sure to stop in and say goodbye in the morning before we leave then, okay?"

Silver smiled warmly, the young hedgehog seeming thankful for the gesture.

"That would be great! It's been nice to catch up with you guys."

"Agreed." Blaze replied.

"It felt good to see you especially, Sonic. I was unsure at first, given the circumstances, but...I'm glad that I did."

"So am I...and thanks. You two don't be strangers alright? Be sure to give me a call or somethin' anytime you need to chat okay, Silver? "

"Absolutely. Well, have fun you guys and remember, everyone is rooting for ya!"

Shadow jumped a bit at the loud grating of the boat sliding backwards out of the shallow water. The Capitan seemed to have a bit of trouble getting the vessel to steer away from the shore, but eventually it began to turn back toward the ocean. Silver waved enthusiastically as they began to move. Blaze glanced over her shoulder with a smile before the princess took her leave below deck.

The hero gave a friendly salute as their little boat began to pick up speed and travel further away, until the stormy ocean fog blurred it out of sight.

It was silent for a few heartbeats as the two hedgehogs stood alone on the shore, nothing but the patter of rain and rustling tree branches filling the air. Sonic let out a shaky sigh and stretched, seeming a little unsure about what to do. Shadow waited a moment to let the hero gather his thoughts before asking the obvious question on his mind. Whatever this place was, his rival clearly had a significant connection to the location and was pretty shaken about being here.

"So...where are we?" he asked carefully.

A light chuckle escaped Sonic's lips as he ran a hand through his blue quills. Sadness was evident in his gaze as he turned to his partner, but underneath it all a strange joy began to creep through their bond as well.

"We're on Christmas Island." The blue hedgehog replied wistfully.

"This is uh...where I was born. My home."


It took very little time to get to the place Silver mentioned, and the ultimate life form was more than thankful to find it so quickly. While the storm was fairly light, Shadow could tell it Sonic was growing slightly uncomfortable in the rain.

At least, that's what he hoped was causing his partner's unusually quiet demeanor.

The shack was better than he expected, but not as good as Silver made it sound. It was a simple log cabin with a thatched roof made of clay and palm tree leaves. It appeared to have a chimney, and by the front door was a single glassless window drawn over with curtains. It wasn't much to look at, though it seemed fairly sturdy and dry. Shadow figured that if the mainland fishermen spent their nights here, it should be a perfectly habitable shelter.

Sonic reached the shack first and placed a hand on the doorknob before giving a quick knock.

"What is it? Is it locked?"

"Nah, just thought I'd knock just in case, ya know? Bein' polite." he replied opening the door slowly as he stepped inside. The first thing that hit the blue hedgehog was the stale salty air as soon as he walked in. It was dark, but he could make out the shape of a single bed and what appeared to be an old furnace.

"I hope there's firewood in here since electricity is out of the question," Shadow commented.

"Everything outside is too wet to burn and It'll be pretty annoying if we keep bumping into each other."

"Don't you have night vision? Or something?"

"Yes. However you don't, and you're the clumsy one."

"Name one time I- wait, nevermind! I found some!" The hero exclaimed as he crouched near the door. Gingerly, he felt around the body of the furnace until his fingers gripped onto a metal latch.

Shadow watched with mild amusement as his partner fumbled in the dark with the furnace door and haphazardly threw a log inside.

"You know, you could help me instead of standing there in the dark with that look on your face."

"You can't even see my face."

"Pfft, I don't need to see it I can feel it, ya little shit." the blue hedgehog chuckled warmly. Suddenly a small green spark flew through the darkness straight into the furnace, causing the wood to burst into flames. Sonic jumped back with a sharp yelp as he felt a stray spark land on his ungloved hand.

"Whoa! what was that?"

"You said you wanted me to help." Shadow replied, his smirk now easy to see in the orange glow of the fire.

"You could've given me a warning first, throwing Chaos energy like that around! I could've lost a finger."

"Hmm. If only I were that lucky." the dark hedgehog took a seat on the bed and ran a hand idly over the sheets. They seemed clean enough, and he noticed at the foot of the bed was a small opened box with sleeping mats and blankets. Perhaps if it became too cold they could use them to make another 'nest' again. Shadow was surprised at how much he loathed the idea of going back to his own bed in his apartment when this was over. The disorganized, comfy mess of a sleeping space he and his rival shared became more appealing every time he thought of it.

"Feelin' alright, Shads?" Sonic asked softly as he sat on the bed beside him.

"Yes, actually. Just contemplating what it will be like once we return home." The dark hedgehog replied, as he slipped a clawed finger into the collar of the varsity jacket.

"You should take that off. It's wet, isn't it?"

"Oh, right, yeah." Sonic unzipped the jacket and removed it, giving the varsity a quick shake before draping it over the wooden bed post.

"Speaking of home..." Shadow started.

"you said this place was yours?"

"Uh...yeah it is. Well, not this tacky shack, but this island, yeah."

"Does it bother you to be here?"

The hero let out an exasperated huff and smiled, seeming at a loss on exactly what he was feeling.

"It doesn't bother me, I just...I never thought I'd find this place again. I was a kid, I didn't know anything about the world beyond this island, especially not how to find it again once I left it. It's a little surreal."

"And yet...you don't sound happy to have found it."

"I'm not unhappy..." Sonic started, glancing in Shadow's direction.

"Its just, I've had a good chunk of my childhood here, good and bad. There use to be people here, you know? They all left when Eggman reared his ugly head, and once he was done screwing around on Christmas Island I went right after him. Suddenly that became my life because I was the only one who could stop him." Blue ears perked up and the hero shook his head.

"I'm not complaining, I don't regret it or anything. It just...its a mixed bag, you know?"

Shadow hummed in reply, his bright red eyes focused on the burning wood flames across the room.

"This is your Ark."

The blue hero whipped his head around to his rival, mouth agape once he realized he was at a loss for words. The uneasy feeling crept along their bond once again, though this time Shadow ignored it.

"Oh no, babe, I would never compare what happened to you, to-"

"The Ark holds many of my earliest memories, both pleasant and unpleasant. Yet I have an emotional attachment to it all the same. I was born there. Isn't that what this place is to you?"

Sonic nodded and scratched his cheek nervously.

"Huh...I guess it is, isn't it?"

"Mmm-hmm."

Shadow grunted as a peach arm wrapped slowly around waist, pulling him halfway into the hero's lap. Sonic's muzzle brushed against his cheek softly and the ultimate life form let out a relaxed sigh at the intimate gesture. For a long time they sat watching the fire, both so close yet so far away, lost in their own memories.

"We don't have to stay the night if you don't want to; Chaos Control is an option." Shadow suggested.

"Amy wanted us to stay. Besides, I want to be here too."

"Do you?" Shadow asked skeptically.

"Yeah, of course. Its all rainy right now, but later I want to explore this place again, maybe race a lil' bit. Being here...It'll be better this time, because I'm here with someone important to me." The blue hedgehog punctuated his sentence with a quick kiss on his partner's temple.

"Mmm...and, who would that be, Love? Someone I should know about?" Shadow teased as he closed his eyes, leaning back onto the hero's shoulder.

"Oh shut up, you know."

"I do not."

"You, ya bastard."

"Ah," the dark hedgehog replied giving a satisfied chuckle.

"Naturally."

"Chaos you're secretly the spoiled type, ain't ya?"

"Never say that again unless you want to lose your kneecaps, hedgehog."

The hero snorted and reached up to pet Shadow's quills affectionately. Sonic suddenly realized with dismay that the rain had become much louder than before; it appeared the storm had picked up significantly now.

"Looks like we won't be exploring anytime soon until the rain dies down."

"It's fairly early...about nine o'clock in the morning?" The dark hedgehog checked his phone momentarily to be sure.

"We have plenty of time to do that before tomorrow. My biggest concern is what we will do in the meantime."

"Well..." Sonic drawled.

"There's a bed here...and this warm fire has me feeling pretty great right now..."

"Mmm, yes. I suppose sleeping is an option isn't it? There are plenty of blankets in that chest over there actually."

"Wow."

Shadow cocked an eye ridge, confused.

"What?"

"I'm not talking about sleeping, you hot dummy."

"You seriously want to do that...here. On the island?"

Soft short nails dragged across Shadow's white chest fur, raking downward until they stopped just above his navel. Something told the ultimate life form those fingers were just itching to travel lower.

"There's no better way to spend the time here..." Sonic's voice deepened as he spoke gently into his partner's ear.

"Are you sure?"

"I'm positive. Besides, I'd much rather have you fill my thoughts right now than think of all the bad shit while we're here."

"Ever the flirtatious one, aren't you...?"

"Hey man, if I see a snack I eat it."

Shadow huffed and pushed his rival backwards on the bed causing Sonic to let out a sharp laugh as he hit the mattress. Slowly the ultimate life form crawled on top of him, hooded red eyes locking immediately with green as the blue hedgehog's giddy laugher died down into a mischievous smile.

"You should be careful, hedgehog. You might bite off more than you can chew, as usual."

"I dunno..." The hero replied as he slid his hand lovingly over a black thigh.

"I have an insatiable appetite, and I know just how to fix that..."

"Frankly I'm surprised you know how to use the word 'insatiable' correctly-" Shadow's taunt was cut off short as peach lips crashed against his own, the dark hedgehog melting immediately at the wave of pure hot chaos energy enveloping his body on contact.

He could feel strong, soft hands caressing his waist and sliding downward, fingers spreading out over his lower back and squeezing his ass firmly. Shadow barely held back the aroused growl that vibrated deep his chest. Sonic broke the kiss slowly and swiped his tongue over Shadow's bruised lips before backing away to look at the disheveled hedgehog above him.

"Chaos, you're so fucking sexy..." He drawled moving his arms up around his rival's shoulders.

"Mm, thank you, Love."

"Ahhh...you're gonna kill me if you keep calling me that..."

A devilish smile appeared on Shadow's muzzle.

"Then perish."

A loud obscene moan filled the room as the ultimate life form barred his fangs into Sonic's throat, the hedgehog arching off the mattress and brushing against the warm body above him. Euphoria danced across his wavelength straight into Shadow's nerves causing him to let out another growl and sharp canines puncturing the skin slightly underneath, the threat alone enough to drive the hero to pure insanity.

"Wait, wait...!" Sonic groaned breathlessly and put a hand on the dark hedgehog's chest. Shadow halted and moved away from his rival's neck to face him, pausing to lick the stray smear of blood from his lip.

"Something wrong? Did I hurt you?" He asked gruffly, the husky tone still evident in his voice. Green eyes dilated at the sight of that bloody tongue, but the blue hedgehog managed to keep a cool head and not get swept away in the moment again.

"If you had hurt me, I wouldn't be telling you to stop." He grinned.

"I just wanted to stop ya before you got carried away."

"Changed your mind?"

"Just the opposite. I wanna swap."

Shadow narrowed his eyes.

"You...want to be on top."

"Uh-huh."

"Did you not like how we did it last time?"

"Oh no, I loved it, you were spectacular and I had never done it like that before," Sonic replied as he sat up and leaned on his elbows.

"I just think I wanna try my hand at returning the oh-so-generous favor. Unless you're...scared?"

"Ah, so you're going to try to manipulate me into bottoming by attacking my pride. How shrewd."

"Is it working, ya big chicken?"

"...Maybe."

Sonic flashed his rival a cocky grin before dipping a hand into black striped quills and pulling out an all too familiar pink bottle.

"C'mon...don't you wanna know how it feels?" He brushed the bottle against Shadow's cheek before bringing it up to his lips.

"How I can make you feel?"

"Hmm..." Black brows knitted together momentarily before the ultimate life form pushed up off of his partner.

"Alright then." Shadow replied with a slight nod.

"It's only fair."

"Sweet!"

"But remember what I said about losing your kneecaps, hedgehog."

"Yeah yeah, now c'mere sexy..." Sonic cooed as he pressed his palms gently on black hips, urging his rival to lay on the bed. Shadow obliged and leaned back to stare at the thatched roof before a familiar goofy smile blocked his view.

"This is gonna be so fun, haha..."

"What are you planning?" The ultimate life form asked, a bit of an edge to his voice.

"Nothin' Shaaads, I swear..."

"That just makes you sound even more suspicious-" Shadow's breath hitched at the feeling of his legs being spread obscenely wide, a pair of warm hands underneath each thigh massaging the muscles there as one of them creeped lower.

"Just trust me, okay?" The hero's voice lowered into a gentle whisper.

Sonic rested a dark leg over his shoulder and scooted closer, the hand that was gripped on Shadow's ass now slipping a tentative finger in between his cheeks. An anxious grunt left his lips before he could stop it, and Sonic glanced up at him quickly.

A significant amount of chaos energy prodded into Shadow's unusually jagged wavelength and for a moment he was unsure exactly what he was feeling. Tentative curiosity bled through and Shadow returned the gesture, stroking the intrusive energy with his own reassurance.

Sonic was asking if he was alright.

However it was not lost on him that the hero deliberately avoided asking with words; he knew Shadow well enough to know the ultimate life form would never admit it if he was uncomfortable.

"Just checking."

"I'm fine, it simply surprised me. I've never had anything down there before."

"Don't worry, I got ya."

The hero reached to the side with his other hand and opened the bottle of lube. He let out a snort as Shadow's ears perked at the sharp click of the cap. Sonic had the same reaction their first time and he was betting dicks for dollars his rival's heart just skipped a beat.

'Time for a full on heart attack...'

Cool clear gel pooled in his palm, and red eyes focused on it intensely, waiting for the intrusive sensation Shadow knew was to come. When it lowered our of his line of sight and he felt a thumb spread him wide, the dark hedgehog exhaled and closed his eyes, trying to relax so the process would go smoothly.

What he felt instead of cool gel was something small and hot against his pucker.

Hot and it was moving.

Shadow jerked at the foreign feeling but a hand reached up and held him in place by the hip. He raised his head slightly, trying to figure out what the hero was doing.

He could barely make out what was going on from this angle and Sonic's head was bowed so low... a little too low.

The ultimate life form huffed and leaned back again, the gears clicking into place once he realized what was going on.

That was a tongue.

As if on queue, Shadow felt the hot sensation squirm and stroke his entrance, just barely passing through the tight ring of muscles inside. He suddenly felt teeth gently graze the sensitive area and Shadow put a hand over his mouth, trying hard not to let out a moan just yet. The last thing he wanted to do was give the hero any gratification for surprising him like this but it was proving difficult; Sonic had clearly done this before and he wasn't afraid to show it.

A loud, slurping noise reached Shadow's ears as Sonic eventually pulled himself away from the dark hedgehog's now thoroughly soaked rear. He leered over his rival with that same dark lustful glare that had Shadow's heart racing every time he saw it.

"Aw, why are ya holdin' back?" The hero asked as his fingers ghosted over the ultimate life form's exposed member peaking out of his sheath.

"You don't deserve a reward for being sneaky..." Shadow grunted.

"I just did it to loosen you up...in more ways than one, haha."

"Just get to it, Faker."

"Hah, okay okay," a peach hand rubbed in small tight circles over his groin.

"Relax though, alright? It might be uncomfortable for a little bit."

The dark hedgehog gave a brisk nod and put a hand on Sonic's shoulder, the other gripped firmly on the edge of the mattress. A finger slipped in easily enough, the sensation causing Shadow to give an involuntary buck at the feeling. It was firmer than his partner's tongue and more precise, stroking inner walls slowly as it pushed back and forth.

A shaky sigh left tan lips as he tried to adjust to the foreign feeling, his gaze roaming the shack and looking everywhere except straight at his partner above him.

"You okay?" Sonic asked tentatively.

"Yeah..."

A hint of amusement dipped into their bond, the blue hedgehog's tone shifting from concerned to cocky.

"Then why won't you look at me, huh?"

"Shut up."

"Are you embarrassed?" green eyes narrowed playfully.

"Please stop talking-ah...!" Another finger slipped in alongside the first one, catching Shadow off guard and hitting a very sensitive nerve inside. Whether Sonic did it on purpose at that exact moment, or just got lucky, he wasn't sure.

Either way, it didn't stop that predatory grin from making its way onto the hero's face.

"Felt good, huh?"

"Hmn..." The dark hedgehog put am arm over his eyes, tan muzzle flushed red as his chaos energy ran wild.

"Babe, don't cover your pretty face, c'mon..."

"I prefer this."

"But..." Sonic tilted his head for a moment then patted a black thigh to get his rival's attention.

"Here, turn over."

"Are you going to do something else to surprise me now?" Shadow replied exhausted, peeking out from under his arm.

"No, just turn over, on your belly for me."

Reluctantly, the ultimate life form did as he was asked, shifting onto his stomach. He cast a glance over his shoulder waiting to see what else was next.

"Hmn...like this?"

"Yeah, just like that. Is this better?"

Shadow paused.

"...Yes actually."

"Good," Sonic cooed as he ran a hand affectionately down black spines.

"I figured that being on your back felt a little too vulnerable for ya."

"I never said that." he replied evenly, folding his arms in front of him.

"I know. That's why our connection is so useful, eh?"

"I can't see what you're doing from this position though."

"Just trust me, I got you." the hero placed a hand on Shadow's hip and kneaded softly as he cupped his rear.

"Ready?"

"I was waiting for you, hedgehog."

Sonic rolled his eyes with a smile, taking the snarky reply as a yes. His fingers slipped in once again, this time gaining a few more inches than before. Pleasure oozed into his wavelength from the ultimate life form's own, as he listened to the soft muffled grunts of his partner.

The process was agonizingly slow and Sonic was impatient, but as much as he wanted to speed things up, the hero held firm and worked Shadow open at a steady pace. He scratched and ruffled thick dark fur affectionately, earning him a low gentle purr in reply. Shadow didn't appear to be as vocal as he was, but the little sounds that did reach Sonic's ears were light and breathy. Out of curiosity, he added a third finger and before his rival could voice a protest, he gave into temptation- just a little- and shoved deeper inside right against that familiar spot.

Any harsh words the ultimate life form had for him were completely dissolved into a long, gutteral moan.

The hero perked not only at the sound, but the visceral, lustful shock that radiated across Shadow's body right into Sonic's wavelength and straight to his groin. Just as quickly as it came, the spike across their bond dissipated, leaving Sonic feeling fuzzy and warm. He leaned over and huffed gently into a black ear, eliciting a high, needy whimper from the dark hedgehog as a shiver visibly ran down Shadow's spine.

Chaos give him strength; he was going to destroy this man if he wasn't careful.

"Faker..."

Or...it might be the other way around. And not in a good way.

"Now babe, c'mon..." Sonic chuckled.

"You can't be mad, It felt good right?"

"Your kneecaps. Gone." He gritted out.

"Oh..."

"Now...do it again."

"O-oh?" The blue hedgehog grinned, giving his partner's rear a gentle love tap.

"Yes sir.~"

Sonic was determined to get that little whimper out his rival again if his life depended on it. Once he was given the green light to be a little rougher, the hero wasted no time as he abused Shadow's prostate over and over with each thrust.

However, not only did the ultimate life form have more endurance, their connection laid their emotions completely bare to one another and Sonic was well aware Shadow probably picked up on his excitement and was determined to not give in so easily.

The hero loved a good challenge.

Green eyes widened at the sight of sharp fangs, the dark hedgehog's mouth falling open for just a moment as he turned his head to the side and gasped trying to catch his breath. Sonic stroked delicately at his inner walls, allowing him to calm himself for a moment before picking up the pace again. Shadow pulled away, and a peach hand gripped his hip to hold him in place but he jerked again, harsher this time.

"Stop..."

"What's wrong?"

"I'm ready now."

"You sure?" Sonic tilted his head, trying to face his partner directly.

"Yes, I'm sure; you've been doing this a lot longer than necessary."

"Aw, I was havin' fun is all. You're a hard guy to break, but that's what's so fun about it." He sat up slowly and pulled his fingers out, Shadow giving a restrained grunt in reply.

"Plus, I kinda wanted to wait until you told me you were ready."

"Hm. How thoughtful." his rival stated dryly. Though Sonic could tell from the gentle ebb and flow of his energy that Shadow genuinely appreciated his thoughtful approach to his first time doing this.

The hero let out a breathy chuckle and lined himself up with the dark hedgehog's waist. He pressed his cock against the pucker briefly, sliding over the entrance as the lube coated his member. Shadow jolted as he felt the intense heat moving behind him, but not breaching anything just yet.

Blue hips moved teasingly against his ass, the hedgehog's dick sliding just below him this time and rubbing against Shadow's own. He bit his lip, both enticed and frustrated by the sensation as clear gel leaked down his taint and under the base of his cock.

"Will you hurry up?" he growled.

"Mmm...I'm just trying to get my dick wet before I get my dick wet; you don't want me goin' in dry do you?"

"There's plenty of lube in the bottle..."

"Yeah, but it doesn't give me the added bonus of driving you crazy, now does it, babe?" The hero relented and pulled back a little, lining up the tip of his member against Shadow's pucker.

"Now...hold still for me."

Almost immediately the ultimate life form clamped down on the tip as it pushed inside, its size much larger than anything Sonic had put in there before. Peach hands stroked gently at his sides, the hero wordlessly trying to coax him to relax. Shadow breathed out, letting the tension in his body go and felt the intrusion slip in a little more. It burned low and intense but he endured it as best as he could, choosing to focus on his partner's nimble fingers scratching pleasantly at his fur.

Sonic licked his lips, watching as the ring of muscles tightened around his cock with each gentle thrust. This was so much hotter than he ever imagined, and the hero couldn't get enough of the low grunts and purrs his partner let out as he stroked his body.

"That's a good boy..." he drawled, feeling silken walls tighten at the compliment.

"Don't...don't patronize me hedgehog."

"But you're doing a good job, babe." The hero's tone dropped an octave.

"...and your body doesn't lie; you liked it."

His ears perked at Shadow mumbling something angrily under his breath, but the ultimate life form didn't argue. Sonic snorted and continued, giving his partner's back another affectionate scratch.

It was a minute or two before Sonic finally bottomed out, the blue hedgehog's entire length buried deep inside. Their energies mingled into a soft lazy heat, both hedgehogs spending a moment to catch their breath and bask in the warm aura. Shadow sighed deeply as he turned his head to the side and leaned back, giving his position an experimental push.

"...Is that all?"

"Oh don't you dare try to make a size joke, you know you're barely taking my cock right now." The hero shot back pushing against him.

"Anyway, how do you feel?"

"I feel alright enough..." Shadow replied.

"Full, right? But in a kind of good way?"

"Mmm."

Sonic grinned and pulled out slowly, feeling the walls squeeze his member as he slid against them. He pushed back in a little harder and Shadow bucked, hissing as his cock prodded that sensitive bundle of nerves.

"Fuck..." He breathed.

The blue hedgehog leaned down and draped over his back, his hands sliding from Shadow's hips to wrap around his waist.

"Chaos you're so tight..." Sonic breathed, giving another slow thrust. Feeling overwhelmed he buried his muzzle into a black shoulder, drowning in Shadow's spicy natural scent.

Sonic caught on very quickly that while he himself enjoyed rough, painful treatment during sex, that Shadow was the exact opposite. The ultimate life form, while able to dish out any punishment his rival begged for, seemed to prefer a more intimate and gentle approach when it came to bottoming himself.

The sheer juxtaposition of someone so powerful and deadly getting hard over scratches and praise would have had the blue hedgehog laughing uncontrollably, if he wasn't just as keen on giving them to him as Shadow was on receiving.

Well, that and getting punched through a wall would probably kill the mood.

"Ah...Shit..." Shadow growled.

"Wanna go a lil' faster?"

"Yeah...you don't have to ask from now on, I can take it."

Sonic gave him a quick peck on the cheek before burying his face into black fur once more. Blue hips pressed tightly against the dark hedgehog's ass, trading the gentle slow thrusts for a deep, hard grind. The hero smiled and closed his eyes, basking in the sound of his rival's throaty moans as his cock pounded that sweet spot rapidly.

"You're such a good boy, Shadow..." he sighed, smiling inwardly as he heard the ultimate life form's breath hitch at the compliment. Sonic reached down and stroked Shadow's neglected member, biting his lip at how hot and wet it felt in his palm.

"Sonic, don't-" the dark hedgehog gritted out, his voice cracking as Sonic tightened his grip.

"Shh, I got ya."

"I'm-"

"I know, just a lil' bit more...c'mon..."

Blue hips picked up the pace, grinding harder and faster into the black body underneath. Shadow's restrained grunts began to dissolve into loud harsh moans, his voice raising a little higher by the second. The hand on his cock matched in time with the thrusts, and he gripped the mattress, his chaos energy electrifying both of their bodies and making it harder for Shadow to hold himself together.

Sonic was no better, panting and drooling into black fur, his hips shaking violently under the strain as he got closer to the finish line. He could feel Shadow's inner walls twitching erratically, squeezing him so hard that it almost hurt, both of them so close to the edge as his nerves lit on fire.

A high, desperate whimper left the dark hedgehog's lips as he came, and it was music to Sonic's ears.

The sound shot straight to his groin as Shadow's body tensed around his member and Sonic slammed hard, the audible slap cutting through the air. He held black hips firmly against his crotch in a death grip as the hero let out an obscene groan and came deep inside. Shadow trembled under the pressure and growled low, riding out the overstimulation as tears threatened to form in his eyes.

Sensing the discomfort, Sonic loosened his grip, pulling out just enough to ease himself off of Shadow's prostate. He sighed and gave his rival's rear another affectionate tap, followed by a giddy laugh.

"Hah...man...I'm so fucking lucky to have you..." the hero cooed as he leaned down to kiss Shadow's cheek again.

"I love you..." The ultimate life form breathed, face down into the mattress. He couldn't see Sonic's face, but the significant spike in his wavelength was enough to tell he heard it. For a moment the blue hedgehog didn't reply, and anxiety began to form in Shadow's stomach.

"I love you too." Sonic slurred back.

Shadow smirked to himself, realizing his partner's late response was due to the blue idiot nearly falling asleep.

"At least pull out before you pass out, hedgehog."

"Mmm..." He felt the body above him shift weakly as the hero managed to remove himself. Sonic laid back on the head of the bed, staring at the ceiling through half-closed eyes.

"Did I already say 'I love you too?' "

"Yes." Shadow replied shifting onto his knees.

"Good. 'cuz I do...oh..." Sonic flinched, feeling something hot slide against his spent cock. He looked down and blinked, surprised to see a pair of red hooded eyes staring back at him.

His dick however, was nowhere to be seen, but if the hero had to guess, it was safely in Shadow's mouth.

"Babe, no don't do that. Trust me, cum is an acquired taste..."

tan lips slipped off the flaccid organ, followed by a gentle lick.

"Then I've acquired it."

"Hah, nice. What are you doin, though?"

"Just cleaning." he replied swiping his tongue over the sheath.

"Consider it a thanks."

"C'mere then, and thank me the right way by lettin' me fall asleep in your chest fluff."

Shadow snorted, climbing to the top of the bed and laying down beside him. Sonic reached out lightning fast and pulled the dark hedgehog closer, snuggling down into the sheets as he buried his face in white fur.

"Hmph," Shadow gazed at the sleepy blue hero and reached back, pulling the worn blankets over them.

"And apparently I'm the spoiled one."


 

It was late in the evening by the time Sonic managed to wake himself up. He glanced over at the window, seeing the cloudy dim sky as the soft pattering of light rain hit his sensitive ears. With tremendous effort the hero reached down on the floor to grab Shadow's phone and check the time, squinting at the blinding screen light.

5:41 p.m.

What time did they get here...? Nine? Ten?

"Chaos did we really sleep like 8 whole hours and miss most of the day...?" He groaned, turning to his partner still asleep on the bed.

"Shads," Sonic called, tapping the phone on Shadow's forehead.

"Babe, wake up."

"Ugh, what..."

"Its almost six, we slept too long."

The dark hedgehog rolled over and yawned, narrowing his eyes at Sonic then out the window.

"Oh...it's rather late isn't it...?"

"Yeah, but it looks like the rain let up a little bit recently, so we probably would have had to stay inside the whole time anyway. Plus, I got to fuck my boyfriend so its not a total loss."

"Hm...speaking of which..." Shadow started as he wrinkled his nose.

"We smell."

"Pfft, you smell."

"We should probably Chaos Control somewhere for a moment to wash ourselves. I doubt there's a shower on this island, and bathing in salt water will just damage our fur."

Sonic's green eyes lit up momentarily as he quickly pulled the blanket off of himself and jumped out of bed.

"Wait, we don't have to chaos control anywhere at all! There's a waterfall a mile or so from here."

"Do you remember how to get there?" the dark hedgehog said warily.

Sonic began to button up his jacket, taking his time as he went over the vague memory in his head.

"Mmm...kind of? We'll get there eventually though its an island after all. Plus, we still get to explore a little bit!"

Shadow shrugged and climbed out of bed, leaning over to grab his rocket boots on the floor.

"I suppose that's true."

"Oh, hey, do you mind if I use your phone while we walk?" Sonic asked reaching for the device under the blankets.

"Ah, more pictures for the internet?"

"Well, yeah sorta. Mostly, I just wanna take pics of my old home."

"Be my guest, Love."

A lopsided grin flashed on the hero's muzzle.

"Thanks, babe. Now hurry up and let's get goin' !"


The soft sprinkle of rain filled the tranquil island silence as the two hedgehogs took off toward the waterfall, stopping every so often to admire the scenery or for Sonic to take a picture. The island was pretty average from Shadow's point of view, but every so often his rival would find an unusual tree, an odd bird, or some other natural wonder that had the ultimate life form seeing the small dot of land in an entirely different light through Sonic's eyes. He seemed to enjoy their walk as they went along, and radiated that vibrant intoxicating energy the dark hedgehog could never get enough of.

At one point they reached a large dip in the ground, and Shadow suddenly felt very unnerved by the change in the landscape.

The dip was unnatural; large, clean and perfectly bowl shaped, as if someone had scooped out the soft earth with a house-sized spoon. grass had grown in the strange place, but the surrounding trees were cleared as if they had all died or simply disappeared.

Sonic was silent, choosing instead to raise the phone and snap a quick picture of the area. He nodded in satisfaction before sticking the device into his jacket pocket and crossing his arms.

"What happened here?" Shadow asked.

"One of Eggman's Egg bases were here."

"Ah. And?"

"And I blew it up," the hero gave a wry smile at the memory.

"First base I ever destroyed. It was pretty cool, and I felt so strong. Can you imagine? Egghead bein' all steamed because one of his bases was destroyed by a lil' ol chubby heggie?"

His rival snorted.

"You? You were fat?"

"Oh big time. I was a cute little fucker. All the local village girls told me so." Sonic chuckled as he turned away from the edge of the dip.

"Any way, c'mon, the waterfall is just up ahead."

Shadow nodded and followed close behind, black ears picking up the sound of rushing water as they made their way through the foliage. Peeking out over the trees he could just make out the top of a watery cliff before the rest shortly came into view.

The waterfall was enormous, taking up nearly half of the empty island clearing. Clean, bright water flowed heavily down the rocky cliffs as waves pooled at the bottom of a shallow river. Green moss and Ivy clung to the lower half of the falls, surrounded by palm trees sitting at the base near the edge. Light mist clouded the area in a thin fog giving the falls a mystical feel, and Shadow briefly wondered if they in fact had traveled to some magical location by mistake.

"Wow..." Sonic breathed, startling Shadow out of his thoughts.

"Its just as epic as it use to be...I use to hang out here a lot with some of the locals now and then."

"It certainly is amazing." the ultimate life form replied as he walked along the edge toward the water. Shadow sat down in the sand and immediately started taking off his shoes and socks, before submerging himself completely underwater and out of sight.

Sonic blinked, rather confused as to why his rival barely took any time to take in the scenery.

A moment later, a familiar black shape surfaced near the falls on his right and combed his claws through dark quills. Sonic chuckled and walked up to meet him, taking care not to get too close and get wet.

"You okay there, Shads?" he asked leaning in to face him.

Shadow nodded and closed his eyes, letting the harsh water run down his spines.

"Yes. Sorry, my back is just killing me and I couldn't wait to get in the water and clean myself."

The blue hedgehog sat down on the sandy ground and tilted his head, a cocky grin pulling at his lips.

"Your back hurts huh? That's a damn shame...Gee, I wonder why?"

"Don't play coy with me, faker."

"Hah. So uh...you need any help? Especially with your ass?"

Shadow shook his head, reaching behind himself to rub his lower back.

"I took care of that before I fell asleep. Unfortunately, fur...holds things. I feel much better now, however." He gestured for the hero to join him.

"You could use a wash too, you know."

"Heck no, its cold as balls out here! I can wait till we get to civilization to bathe. Though I know you're basically a walking heater and cold weather isn't anything to ya."

The dark hedgehog shrugged and wadded out from underneath the water towards his rival on the shore. Sonic eyed him with interest, admiring the way jet black fur clung to his rival's taught muscles, accentuating every dip and curve as the ultimate life form bent over on all fours-

The girly squeal that the hero let out at being splashed by ice cold water had Shadow internally screeching.

"Chaos! Shads!" Sonic shouted scooting back on the sand as the dark hedgehog continued to shake out the water droplets from his fur. He gave a long, cat-like stretch before standing upright and flashing his partner a smug look.

"Sorry about that."

"Pft, no you aren't! Just look at that shit eating grin, you fucker." Sonic cackled lightly.

Shadow let out an amused huff and sat down beside him, taking a moment to admire the waterfall now that he was more relaxed.

"This place is truly incredible. A paradise, yes?"

"Yeah." The hero nodded.

"Or well, it is now. For a long time, it wasn't after Egghead started messing with it. I'm glad its back to the way it was, and that the people of Press Village find some use for it from time to time."

"Mmm. It is fortunate. Many places the Doctor touched in the past have never fully recovered from his influence."

"Yeah. That's why its so surreal," Sonic shifted closer to his rival and placed a tentative hand over Shadow's own.

"I never imagined I'd ever find this place again. Hell, I assumed it was gone altogether and that Eggman probably came back and destroyed it or turned it into a full fledged Eggbase like in Metropolis. Sometimes I thought I imagined the whole place altogether, ya know? A place like this...its so easy to think I just made it up simply because I was a kid all alone out here. I mean, I didn't mind it but..."

Black fingers laced lovingly with peach, giving them a firm reassuring hold.

"...after today, I don't feel too bad about the unpleasant memories I have of this place. Now that I'm here, seeing things and feeling things...I dunno I just don't feel as bad. Maybe its because I didn't come here alone, and all I wanna do is show you more cool things I remember about it."

A trickle of anxiety bled into the warmth between them.

"I know that sounds really dumb, I'm kinda babbling a little bit too-"

"No," Shadow said firmly.

"You've seen my home and my past, and yet most people know very little of yours, including myself." He leaned forward and placed a chaste kiss on the blue hedgehog's lips.

"I was more than willing to explore this place with you, especially since it made you happy. If you still want to show me more, I'd be honored."

Sonic's gaze bore into him and Shadow held firm, green eyes searching his face for any hint of doubt. He relaxed and sighed, the connection between them affirming the hero that his partner's words were pure and genuine.

"Thank you, Shadow. I really... needed to hear that."

He pulled his hand out of the ultimate life form's grip and slipped it around a black waist, ignoring the dampness as peach fingers combed through ebony fur. Shadow purred low and scooted closer, putting an arm over Sonic's shoulder as he gently guided him down to lay beside him on the cool sand. The world seemed to slow around them as they relaxed, simply enjoying each other's company to the soothing sounds of rushing water.

"Are you going to take a picture of the waterfall? It would probably make a very interesting photo for your fans."

"Nah, this place...this memory is ours," Sonic closed his eyes and smiled warmly.

"and I don't want to share this with anyone else."

Chapter Text

"So..."

"What."

"...Do you see anything yet?"

"What was my answer the first ten times?"

"It doesn't hurt to ask!" Sonic pouted as he glanced in Shadow's direction.

"Trust me, it does."

For a moment Sonic thought about making a snide comment, but decided against it. He could tell from the low buzzing energy around him that Shadow was becoming irritated, and looked just as lost about their task as he was. A harsh gust of wind whipped up nearby and the hero gripped his jacket tighter to his chest, glancing up anxiously at the cloudy grey sky. He hoped this cold weather would let up soon before it rained.

Huddled low in the grass, Sonic opened the pink notebook in his arms and flipped to the last page one more time to see if they had missed anything.

Still nothing new.

"Chaos..." Sonic sighed sticking the book back into his blue quills.

"What are we supposed to be doing here...?"


The two hedgehogs had spent the rest of night on Christmas Island, and Shadow decided to set an alarm to make sure they got an early start in the morning. They were groggy and the hero was sure he needed at least a few more hours of rest, but the last thing he wanted to do was lose more time since they were a week behind schedule. Sonic was a man of his word and made a brief stop at Press Village to say goodbye to Silver and Blaze before they headed out on the rest of their trip. The young white hedgehog anticipated their early arrival and had prepared a quick breakfast waiting for them on the porch.

However, to Sonic's surprise, the fire princess was nowhere to be found.

According to Silver, she left shortly after their boat ride to Christmas Island the day before.

"Blaze just needs some time to herself I guess," he said wistfully.

"But she said she had fun at least. I'm glad that she could still have fun this time, too."

Sonic nodded and gave a strained smile.

"That's good. I know Blaze is taking it especially hard, so I wouldn't worry about her suddenly leaving like that."

"Will...um...will you guys come with us to the the festival next year...when it happens again?" Silver asked sitting on the porch swing beside him. Gold eyes veered to the side nervously as he spoke, seeming unable to meet Sonic's gaze.

The hero turned in Shadow's direction before answering but his rival seemed distracted, crouched on the stairs idly leafing through Amy's notebook.

"Whatcha think, Shads?" Sonic called.

"You wanna come back here with me next year?"

"Hmn, whatever you want to do."

"That's his way of saying 'Yes' so yeah! We'll both be here next time, Silv. You can count on that."

The young hedgehog's body seemed to relax at his answer, a shy grin spreading on his pale muzzle.

"That's great to hear. I'll let her know too."

"Oh..." The dark hedgehog grunted in surprise.

"What? What's up?"

Wordlessly, Shadow sat up and turned the book around to face them, looking rather puzzled. Right away Sonic noticed there was only one page left, but what was written on it was even more unusual.

In the center, a single tarot card was taped down labeled 'Page of Wands'. It depicted an image of a young man holding a wooden staff sprouting with tiny green leaves. In the distance before him sat a vast mountain range and behind him, endless flat plains. Below the card were key definitions in Amy's handwriting;

'limitless potential' 'free spirit' 'inspiration'.

In the spot underneath them, where the destination was normally written, had a crudely drawn map instead.

"Is this...the last place? Our final stop?"

Shadow nodded.

"It appears that way, yes."

The map wasn't very detailed but Sonic could make out a few significant locations jotted down along the dotted line, leading to an 'X' marked somewhere in an open area.

"Green Cave, Savannah Citadel...yeah I generally know where this place is...er, geographically? But I don't remember what it is. At least not just from a map."

"Well, there is only one way to find out, yes?" Shadow asked, raising an eye ridge knowingly.

"Hell yeah, ya read my mind. We gotta get going then, there's no time to lose!"


It had been over an hour now, and the hedgehogs were still walking around in the grassy open stretch of land.

What the heck were they supposed to be doing here?

"It looks like it's about to rain," Shadow sighed lifting a hand out to catch a stray raindrop.

"We should look for some shelter and try again once the storm passes."

"Yeah I guess," Sonic shrugged standing up quickly.

"Anything to get out of this cold ass wind- what the heck...?"

"Something wrong?"

The blue hedgehog blinked a few times, staring blankly across the plains. Shadow squinted in confusion and turned around to follow his line of sight. At first glance the ultimate life form saw nothing but rocky outcrops and scarce trees as usual, but the sky seemed...off.

Something large and round floated just over the horizon, almost entirely hidden by the dark storm clouds.

"What is that...?"

"I know where we are!" Sonic shouted in excitement.

"Okay but what-"

"Come on!"

Before Shadow could ask anything more, his partner was gone, a blur of blue and red streaking across the open land.

"I should consider put a leash on that idiot..."

It didn't take him long to catch up to Sonic; the blue hedgehog was running at a steady pace straight toward a large lake in the middle of the plains. Shadow noticed that the round object in the sky was much bigger than he anticipated, reminding him vaguely of the doctor's giant Death Egg. The storm clouds obscured most of what he could see, however his rival seemed genuinely excited about spotting it. It was safe to assume it wasn't anything too dangerous.

Then again, knowing Sonic...

As if on queue, the ultimate lifeform could make out a sickeningly familiar image as they came closer. A giant Eggman emblem had been carved deep into one of the rock formations spread out along edges of the lake. Sonic seemed completely unfazed, halting to a complete stop at the side of the water and letting out an excited chuckle. Shadow stopped beside him glaring at the cliff across from them.

"Are you sure we should be running headlong into this area?"

"Its fine! We're totally safe."

"That horrific image in the cliff side doesn't exactly scream 'safe', hedgehog."

Sonic waved it off, green eyes focused on the ominous floating object several hundred feet above them.

"Relax, this is a perfectly chill place now. I just haven't had the chance to smash Egghead's face off that mountain yet. Besides, if I'm right, we aren't hanging around here."

He pointed above him.

"We're going up there."

"And...what exactly is up there?" The dark hedgehog replied evenly. Sonic frowned a bit, seeming unsure of how to answer.

"Wow...uh, a lot of things actually. For starters, I'm not even sure how to get up there without the chain anymore. Its too dangerous to Chaos Control willy-nilly up there."

"Chain?"

"There was this big chain Eggman used to keep it attached to over there. It was a whole thing, don't worry." The hero smiled warmly.

Sonic was trying his best to ease his partner's growing anxiety on the matter without giving too much away, but his Chaos wavelength seemed to only grow more restless. Shadow wasn't the type to 'go with the flow' and Sonic wasn't exactly doing a good job of explaining how a giant dark ball in the sky was harmless. At least not enough to dismiss the dark hedgehog's suspicions.

"Babe, I promise its about.....70% safe up there." Sonic said softly, throwing an arm over his rival's shoulder and giving a light squeeze. The gesture alone was enough to soothe his Chaos energy a fraction, as the fuzzy warmth from Sonic's wavelength mingled lovingly with his own.

"That percentage is not very reassuring," Shadow replied hiding a smirk.

"Considering you're terrible at math."

"Nice! You guys made it!"

Both hedgehogs jumped violently at the sudden outburst and Shadow's hand half-raised in an attempt to form a chaos spear. Luckily Sonic was the first to recover, knowing that familiar cheerful voice anywhere.

"Tails!?"

The yellow fox landed to the side a little further away, his long twin tails fluffing out behind him as he ran up to them. Sonic grinned and met him halfway, giving his little brother an affectionate bear hug.

"What are ya doin' all the way out here by yourself, dude? How'd you know we'd be here?"

"Oh, uh, well I'm not by myself actually-"

"Hi Mr. Sonic! Hi Mr. Shadow!" A soft high voice called above them.

Cream's long ears flapped quickly while she tried to keep her balance as gust of wind whipped up around the lake. She held the hem of her skirt in place as she carefully landed near the pair.

"A-are you sure you're okay?" Tails stuttered once she managed to plant her feet on the ground.

"You almost got blown away twice on the way here..."

"I'm fine Tails, see? all in one piece!" She grinned, giving his shoulder a playful tap.

"Hey Cream, it's nice to see ya, its been a while! Oh, where's your little pal Cheese?"

"He's with my mom. She said she would be fine on her own for a few hours but I still wanted Cheese to stay and keep an eye on her."

Sonic gave a weak smile, suddenly feeling a pang of guilt at the mention of Vanilla. He had almost forgotten; Amy was like a second daughter to her. He made a mental note to visit their house once the trip was over to check on her.

"Is everything alright?" Shadow asked walking over to the small group.

"O-oh, Hi Shadow! Yeah Cream and I made sure everything was fine back home before coming out here."

"Hmn, nice to hear." He drawled, pressing a hand protectively around Sonic's lower back. The hero could tell Shadow's question was directed at him in particular, his tender gesture a reaction to Sonic's sudden change in mood.

"Now...what are you two doing here?"

"Oh, right! We're here to give you a ride." Tails replied putting his hands in his jacket pockets. Shadow blinked and waited for him to continue.

"...A ride up there, to Little Planet. In the Tornado. I-I parked it behind the cliff a few yards away." the fox clarified sheepishly.

"Little Planet? Ah...so that's a planet then?"

"Yep! It's a kinda hard to see clearly right now, but it comes down for one month above Never Lake."

"Looks menacing with all these storm clouds..." Cream commented.

"Yes it does. You... didn't think to tell me a little bit more about it, Faker?" the dark hedgehog asked dryly as his claws dug deep into Sonic's varsity.

"Hey! I said it was safe!"

"And yet you didn't mention what it actually was?"

"I wanted you to be surprised! Plus, if I'm being totally honest, you're kinda cute when you're all nervou- OUCH!" The blue hedgehog squirmed out of his partner's grasp clutching his side dramatically.

"Did you just pinch me?"

"I would've thrown you into the lake but there are witnesses. How did you know we would be here, Fox?"

Tails frowned in confusion but quickly recovered and gave Shadow his full attention.

...He had never heard Sonic refer to his rival as 'cute' before, but decided to ignore it.

"Funny thing, its sort of a miracle I got here at all! I don't use social media often and while I was at Cream's house the other day, I saw Amy had sent me a message months ago asking if I would mind flying you guys up here to Little Planet. It took a little bit of asking around and checking your progress on Amy's page, but I was able to get here right on time."

"Wait, back up, why were you at Cream's house?" Sonic asked scratching his head. As friendly as Tails was, the hero had never known his younger brother to visit their friends on a whim before. More often than not, he would have to coax the young fox away from his inventions just to attend a get-together.

"We were hanging out!" Cream piped up cheerfully.

"Tails asked to come over and we watched funny internet videos all night until we fell asleep. It was really fun."

"You...did?"

"Yep."

Sonic flashed his brother a sly grin.

"...Just the two of you?"

"U-uh, we should get you guys up to Little Planet before it starts to really pour down!" Tails replied quickly. Without warning the teen flipped his twin tails and flew off at lighting speed to get his plane. Shadow squinted, concerned about Tails' unusual reaction.

"What was that about?"

Cream shook her head, though her lips held back a knowing smile.

"Heh. He's just like that."

A moment later the familiar sound of a plane engine rumbled nearby as the Tornado rolled into view from behind a rocky cliff. Tails sat in the pilot's seat of the red biplane as he carefully steered to the side, waving his free hand to get their attention. He recovered from his embarrassment rather quickly, the young fox looking eager to get going to their final stop.

"I'm ready guys! Come on!" He shouted over the engine.

Cream bounced in excitement and dashed toward the plane while Sonic and Shadow followed at a slower pace. The dark hedgehog noticed immediately that Tails' aircraft only had one extra seat in the back as Cream quickly climbed inside.

"How exactly does he plan to fit all of us on that plane...there aren't nearly enough seats."

"Seats? Pfft," Sonic scoffed jumping onto the left wing of the Tornado.

"Where we're going, we don't need...seats."

Shadow quirked an eyebrow completely dumbfounded.

Sonic returned the gesture with a lopsided grin, wondering if his partner understood the joke or just lost his sense of humor. Suddenly the blue hedgehog realized his clever reference was entirely drowned out by the engine now that he was sitting on the plane itself. With an exaggerated eye roll, he chuckled and gestured toward the right wing across from him.

"Just get on the other wing, babe!" He shouted.

"Tails is a pro, you'll be able to sit just fine!"

Said fox turned in his brother's direction, blinking in disbelief. The engine was pretty loud so maybe Tails just misheard him...but he had heard everything else up to that point...

Did Sonic actually say 'Babe' ?

Shadow's casual compliance as he boarded the adjacent wing only added to Tails' confusion. The ultimate lifeform would never allow Sonic to make a joke like that without a snappy comeback...well, unless-

"Tails, he said we're ready." Cream's soft voice called to him and broke his train of thought.

"What?"

"Let's go little bro!" Sonic shouted as he leaned over and waved a hand in front of the windshield.

"Oh! Um...right!" Tails shook his head, deciding to put the thought of his mind for now so he could focus. He flipped a few switches on the control panel and guided the Tornado forward until its wheels began to lift off of the ground. The added weight of Sonic and Shadow on both wings caused the plane to waver a bit before eventually lifting off higher into the cloudy grey sky.

"Hang on tight, guys!"

The ground below them slowly disappeared into a white mist the higher they flew, light rain flecking the small aircraft as it picked up speed. Sonic sat on the left wing kicking his legs, leaning back with a relaxed smile as the wind blew through his quills. It had been some time since he had taken a ride on the Tornado like this, and the hero was instantly hit with a wave of nostalgia. He and Tails definitely needed to take the plane for a spin more often.

Shadow stood rigid on the other side, eyeing Little Planet cautiously as its silhouette began to take shape. Large bodies of water came into view through the fog, along with various land masses spread out across its surface. The dark hedgehog was rather impressed by the strange world and its sheer size as they flew closer. It suddenly occured to him that the fox had not stated exactly where they were going on Little Planet, and Sonic himself did not bothered to ask him.

"Hey, Sonic, what time is it?!" Tails shouted over the wind toward his brother. The hero shrugged before reaching into his jacket pockets for Shadow's phone only to come up empty handed. Green eyes shot up to Shadow's momentarily, a slight flicker of panic and unease flittering across their Chaos bond.

Shadow reached back into his quills and pulled out the cellphone, assuring his partner that he had not lost it by mistake. He spared a quick glance at the screen for the time before putting it back in place.

"It's almost a quarter after 12," he said loudly.

"Why do you ask?"

"Perfect! Then we're right on schedule!" Tails replied as he tilted the plane, angling toward a particularly large body of land. Shadow knelt down and gripped the edge of the wing for balance as the aircraft moved, narrowing his eyes against the wind. The fox was clearly set on a destination and had no intention of sharing it, nor what 'schedule' he was referring to.

If he was being completely honest with himself, Shadow didn't enjoy being kept in the dark by those he considered his allies. While he trusted Sonic and the others, it still gave him mixed feelings about going to places they had prior knowledge of and he did not; especially when they purposely withheld information from him. He had been through it before many times over in the past with previous allies that, eventually, became his enemies.

The ultimate lifeform was not keen on the idea of surprises for this very reason.

Something warm and frantic bullied its way into his thoughts and Shadow spared a glance over at his rival. Sonic was already looking his way, green eyes set on him and full of determination. The onslaught of affection through their bond was so loud and obnoxious, Shadow couldn't resist an amused smirk. It seemed as if he would never be allowed to brood in peace anymore.

That was fine; it was a rather lonely activity anyway.

The blue hedgehog smiled as well, satisfied that he was able to fix whatever seemed to be bothering his partner. The sudden change of wind caught his attention and Sonic quickly braced himself, holding on as tight as he could to the metal wing. They had entered Little Planet's atmosphere now, and the scent of cool ocean air hit the hero's nose as they closed in. The Tornado flipped downward, its small wheels skimming the surface of the water and leaving foamy streaks in its wake.

Further ahead the dark outline of nearby island could be seen and the red biplane kicked into high gear.

"Hey, buddy?" Sonic shouted over his shoulder toward the cockpit.

"Do you remember where we're goin' ? And where are we goin' specifically?"

"You'll see!" The fox replied waving him off.

"I kept all of Eggman's terraforming data on this place, so I know exactly how to get where Amy told us to go. If I told you, it wouldn't be a surprise!"

Suddenly the sky began to darken as they neared the island, and small twinkling lights could be seen flittering in the distance. Black ears perked at the sound of music being carried on the breeze and Shadow noticed a broad cityscape forming out of the island's outline. Tails lowered the plane once it reached the city, heading straight for the tall buildings as the sky shifted from storm clouds to a clear starry night.

Alarmed, the ultimate life form turned to his partner, red eyes wide with confusion at the sudden change. Sonic flashed him a toothy grin and winked but gave nothing else in reply. The music suddenly grew louder as they approached and Shadow whipped his head around, completely amazed by the land below them.

Large silhouettes of buildings were almost invisible in the darkness, their frames illuminated by the bright neon street lights. Sparkling highways adorned with musical instruments wove in between the structures, every so often looping around the many carnival rides dotted throughout the city streets. Lively disco music seemed to come from both everywhere and nowhere, occasional road lamps flickering to the steady rhythm. Further in the distance sat a grand shimmering cathedral, decorated with colorful wash lights that covered the sky in a soft technicolor glow. High above the horizon sat thousands of beautiful stars, crisp and clear against the dark nighttime sky.

The strange yet beautiful world reminded Shadow of the dazzling lights of Casino Park. However, something about this place seemed fuzzy and nostalgic even though the ultimate life form was sure he had never been here before.

"Hang on tight, I'm coming in for a landing!" Tails called as he guided the Tornado toward the roof of a nearby building. Shadow flinched as the small biplane jolted, its wheels skidding to a halt on the narrow rooftop.

"Wow! This place is incredible...!" Cream gasped as she climbed quickly out of her seat. Tails stayed put for a few moments, taking his time while undoing the seatbelt.

"Where is this place?" Shadow asked following Cream's lead.

"Stardust Speedway." The hero replied.

"Stardust Speedway in the good future to be specific."

"The...good future?"

"Time Travel. Didn't you see the sky?"

Shadow narrowed his eyes.

"Please, elaborate."

Sonic shrugged and let out a breathless chuckle before jumping off the wing of the plane.

"There are some magical stones here called 'Time Stones' and Egghead wanted to use them to take over Little Planet. That is, before yours truly kicked his ass and got them back. Though, this place is weird..."

"Weird?"

Tails nodded, absently folding a piece of paper in his lap.

"There are intervals in which you can time travel to the past, present, or future here," The fox replied.

"Though its difficult to say where you'll end up sometimes." Sonic perked up and gave his brother a mischievous grin.

"Don't you mean when you'll end up?"

"Yeah. But I knew how badly you wanted to say it."

"This. This is why we're bros."

Cream stepped up beside the dark hedgehog and leaned over the edge of the roof, her brow creasing in confusion as she gazed down below.

"Uh...Mr. Sonic...? There aren't any people anywhere."

Shadow blinked and leaned over as well, red eyes searching the city streets for any signs of life. Aside from a small gathering of flickies perched nearby, there were no Mobians or humans in sight.

"She's right." He breathed.

"Did the Doctor do this?"

Sonic glanced at his brother before giving a half-hearted shrug.

"There weren't any people living here to begin with besides flickies. Though there were a lot of old ruins and junk before Egghead came here and started building cities. I gotta admit though, this place is so bonkers we still don't know how Stardust Speedway turns into this in the future, or even what's keepin' all these lights on." The hero shook his head and turned away, letting out an amazed whistle as he gazed up at the twinkling stars above them.

"Sure is pretty though, ain't it?"

Shadow nodded slowly, still a bit confused on exactly where- or when? - they were. However his partner's energy was as warm and vibrant as ever and Sonic's feelings of nostalgia bled into his wavelength. Vague formless images caressed Shadow's mind as he stepped closer, feeling the hero's memories as if they were his own.

As far as the ultimate life form was concerned, if Sonic was happy to be here, so was he.

"Yes," He said quietly, slipping an arm around the blue hedgehog's waist.

"Its beautiful."

"So does this mean...there's no line at ferris wheel?" Cream chirped as she played with one of her long tan ears. The girl looked a tad conflicted, sensing she had interrupted something between them.

Sonic lit up at her suggestion and whipped around to face Shadow, emerald eyes wide and pleading. The dark hedgehog smirked at his rival's puppy dog expression and planted a kiss on his muzzle.

"Go check it out if you must."

"You don't wanna come with us?"

"I don't have an interest in carnival thrills. Our lives are thrilling enough as it is. Just come back quickly."

"Okay babe, your loss!" Sonic snickered before zipping over and scooping the rabbit girl up in his arms. Cream let out an excited squeal, abruptly cut off by the rush of wind as the hero raced down the side of the building. In an instant they were gone, leaving behind a thin streak of blue headed toward the ferris wheel a few blocks away.

"He didn't waste any time, did he?" Tails said stepping out of the Tornado. A nervous laugh left the young fox's lips as he approached Shadow, pulling the paper from earlier out of his jacket pocket.

"Before I forget, this is for you. It has a link to some site on it. It was in the message Amy sent me, but I have no idea where it goes, only that I was supposed to copy it and give it to you guys after we got here. You'll have to go to it on your phone and figure it out."

"A secret website link...? That's quite particular and convoluted of her," Shadow replied reaching for the paper.

"I have a feeling Rouge may have had a hand in this part of her plan."

Tails suddenly pulled the paper out of his range, eyeing the dark hedgehog suspiciously. It was a surprising yet familiar look Shadow had seen from the young fox before in the past, though this time something else was present in those blue eyes.

He scowled, irritated.

"What."

"You and Sonic," Tails said evenly.

"Yes?"

"Are you two...together?"

"Together."

"You know what I mean." The fox replied, a hint of restraint in his tone. The urge to rise to the subtle challenge nagged at the back of his mind but Shadow held it in a little longer, curiosity eventually taking over.

"If you are asking if the hedgehog and I are romantically involved, the answer is yes."

Twin tails swished frantically at the response, but the boy held his gaze, seeming more determined than before.

"Do you love him?"

"I believe that isn't any of your business." Shadow stated putting a hand on his hip. While he had admitted his feelings to the hero multiple times, the ultimate lifeform refused to do it again so casually in front of others.

"He's my brother," Tails replied as his eyes grew sharper.

"Its absolutely my business."

Shadow tilted his head slightly, impressed not only by the sincerity in the boy's voice, but the subtle edge to it as well. Though he held firm, the fox's namesakes twitched and fluffed anxiously behind him; it was clear Tails was still very intimidated by the dark hedgehog.

"Oh?" Shadow asked crossing his arms.

"How so?"

"Sonic...has been with a lot of people in the past," Tails said slowly as he thumbed the folded paper in his hand.

"They always managed to hurt him in some way. He would never show it for my sake, but I'm not blind. He was...always feeling really bad about it when it happened. He would feel bad about himself too, and say it was his fault..."

He looked away for a moment and long uncomfortable silence began to take hold. The intensity from before was begining to waver in the fox's voice as he went on.

"You said you're together, but after someone you care about dies, anyone can be vulnerable...even him. Before I help you any further..." He slipped the paper into his jacket pocket.

"I want to know...that you won't be like everyone else."

Shadow stood rigid, his stone faced expression giving nothing away as he let the fox's ultimatum sink in.

Who was this child to give him an ultimatum?

Tails had never spoken to him in such a way, let alone spoken to him at all. In fact, today was probably the most Shadow had ever heard him talk since he'd known him. Yet this boy had the audacity to threaten the ultimate lifeform, withhold information meant for him, and make demands on top of it. It was enough for Shadow to contemplate simply taking the paper by force.

However, that same fruitless audacity is why he decided against it.

It was obvious from his body language that Tails was terrified of him and given what Shadow was capable of, he had every reason to be. Yet the boy managed to face him with his head held high. Tails was smart enough to know this was a fight he could not win, yet he rose to the challenge regardless simply out of love for his older brother. It was that same burning determination he had seen in his lover's eyes time and time again.

"Fox," Shadow drawled slowly, unfolding his arms. Blue eyes followed the motion warily, but the boy stood his ground.

"I don't know what you mean by 'everyone else' nor do I care to know. However, one thing I am certain of is that I don't appreciate being threatened."

"It's not a threat." Tails replied softly.

"It's a promise."

"Hm...I see." Shadow smirked, genuinely amused by his answer.

"Well then, I will tell you what I told miss Rose, and even the faker himself."

He stepped closer, causing the young fox to step back anxiously. It suddenly dawned on Tails that even if he managed to fly away and get a head start, Shadow would still be able to catch him no matter where he went. A black clawed hand landed roughly on his shoulder and squeezed, the ultimate lifeform anticipating his idea to retreat.

"I will always be here for him."

"...what?"

Shadow eased his grip on the teen's shoulder.

"I owe Sonic my life, my love, and my happiness. And I intend to repay him a million times over. This is a promise I made to him from the bottom of my heart, and I will do everything in my power to keep it."

He lowered his arm, extending it open palm in front of Tails.

"I am the ultimate lifeform. I have not been, nor will I ever be, like everyone else."

It took a moment for the young fox to recover, noticing Shadow's hand stretched out between them. He was waiting for the paper. Tails glanced at his hand before looking up into the dark hedgehog's eyes, slightly taken aback by the soft, intimate expression in them. His declaration was not one of pride or obligation, but of pure affection for the blue hedgehog.

Wordlessly, Tails reached into his pocket and placed the paper in Shadow's hand. A shy, relieved smile grew on his face as he watched him stick the note into black quills for safe keeping.

"Thank you." Shadow grunted.

"Y-Your welcome."

"Oh, by the way..."

The fox flinched back as a hand suddenly shot out toward his face. Tails shut his eyes and braced himself, standing far too close to avoid whatever Shadow was preparing to throw his way.

"Ow!" Tails yelped at the sharp tap on his forehead. He blinked in confusion at the dark hedgehog and rubbed the spot tenderly, a little unsure of what had happened.

"Did you just...flick me..!?"

"While I respect your decision to challenge me, I didn't appreciate it. Don't do it again."

Tails nodded and put his hands in his pockets, surprised by Shadow's reaction. The tap on his forehead was unexpected but gave the young fox an odd sense of comfort.

"Huh...heh, okay."

In a flash the blue hero returned, still carrying Cream in his arms. He stopped short beside Tails and set the rabbit girl down, a frown evident on his face as he glance over at the ferris wheel down the street.

"The ferris wheel doesn't work," He sighed tapping his foot.

"No, it totally works, Mr. Sonic just didn't know how to operate it!" Cream chuckled giving him a gentle push. Sonic let out an exaggerated gasp and turned up his nose at her.

"Well, excuse me for not having my Carnival license on me today!"

Tails snorted and and lifted his arm, sparing a moment to check the watch on his wrist.

"It's about 12:45..." the fox said thoughtfully.

"You guys still have some time."

"Time?" Shadow asked.

"Yeah. That paper I gave you says you have to wait until 1pm to go to that website. Those were Amy's directions in the email."

"Ah, so that's why you were concerned with the time."

Tails nodded and eyed the sky for a moment before letting out a relaxed sigh.

"Well, Cream and I better get going. This place is pretty, but its also very unpredictable. Plus, I promised Ms. Vanilla we would be back soon."

"Oh right! we were gonna make my mom a surprise cake to make her feel a little better."

"You? Cooking? Really?!" Sonic sputtered.

" I never took you as the baking type Tails..."

"C-Cream offered to teach me!"

"Mmm-hmm, I bet she did-"

"Anyway! W-we better get going, bye Sonic!" Tails replied and turned on his heel, heading straight for the red biplane. Cream gave the two hedgehogs a quick salute and smiled before hurrying to the Tornado as well.

"Bye Mr. Sonic and Mr. Shadow! We'll see you guys later!"

The hero grinned and gave a friendly wave as the biplane began to lift into the air. Tails locked eyes with Shadow and nodded before guiding the Tornado forward, quickly taking off into the sky. Sonic watched them go, blue brows knitted together in confusion as the Tornado gradually disappeared into the night.

"Did something happen between you to while I was gone...?"

"Nothing of particular importance," Shadow replied.

"He simply gave me a paper with the website on it."

"Uh-huh...did he say what it was about?"

"He didn't know. I suppose once it hits 1pm we will find out. We have about fifteen minutes left, anyway."

Sonic's face lit up with a mischievous smirk as he sauntered over to his rival. There was something all too familiar about that sudden change in his wavelength and it immediately set Shadow's nerves on fire in excitement. A peach hand snaked around his waist and rested suggestively over his lower back.

"Fifteen minutes is a lotta time for a 'quickie' don't you think...?"

"...You mean a race?"

"Heh heh, of course.~"

"Hmm, any place in particular you want to meet at?"

Sonic looked around from their vantage point before settling on the large cathedral in the distance.

" 'Top of that church building thing. You can take any of these lovely spiral speedway routes ya want too. Or take the city streets down below, like a chump. Either way I'll beat you there in no time."

"Pretty tough talk for someone within pushing-off-a-building distance." Shadow growled, putting a hand over his partner's smug face.

"Ready when you are, hedgehog."

"Born ready, babe. On your mark...?" Sonic replied, leaning down into a runner's stance. He spared a glance over at his rival, green eyes instantly locking with red.

"Get set..."

Shadow readied himself, chaos energy flowing through to his boots as they flared to life.

"GO...!"

The entire rooftop crackled as twin sonic booms exploded into the air, the two hedgehogs nothing more than black and blue streaks dashing through the city.

Sonic was well aware his partner would follow him on the winding speedways rather than the streets below and smirked, catching Shadow's form out of the corner of his eye. The hero had been here only a few times but he still knew this place better than Shadow did, and he wasn't above using that fact to his advantage.

As if on queue, a gap appeared in the road and caught the ultimate life form off guard. He skidded to a halt narrowly escaping the sudden drop down to the city below. To his surprise Sonic continued straight over the edge, immediately bouncing straight up to a higher platform. Shadow narrowed his eyes and spied a bounce spring further down tucked into the riggings below.

"Tch..."

There was no way Sonic would have been able to see that from their position without prior knowledge of it beforehand.

"If he wants to play tricks, he should know by now I'm not that easy to fool."

The blue hedgehog chuckled to himself as he flew though the winding speedway roads, noticing his rival was nowhere to be found. The cathedral wasn't too far away now, and that slip up on Shadow's part secured his victory for sure.

Suddenly a familiar black blur zoomed by on the track to his left and Sonic growled, putting on another burst of speed. He didn't expect Shadow to find another route so quickly, given the place itself was a labyrinth of roads. Blood pounded in his ears as their destination neared and Chaos energy buzzed wildly between them, overwhelming yet exciting the blue hero.

The undulating paths crossed and twirled around each other, search lights and instruments embedded in the streets, adding another burst of excitement to the already close race. Shadow tried to keep an eye on his partner's progress but everytime he saw or heard the hedgehog he would suddenly disappear, consumed entirely by the bright lights and music only to appear again somewhere else.

Without warning Sonic dropped down right in Shadow's path, attempting to cut him off at the last second and secure the win.

However, the hero was a little off with his timing.

Sonic jumped in front of him too soon, clipping the dark hedgehog's shoulder. Shadow reached out and grabbed his arm for support as he fell, and ended up dragging his rival down with him. The two tumbled at high speeds down the rest of the speedway and Sonic reflexively curled into a ball around the ultimate life form, causing Shadow to do the same.

The black and blue ball crashed through several platforms before free-falling to the city streets below. A sickening crack cut through the air as they violently hit the pavement. Sparks flew wildly in its wake and the ball sped along the road, before losing momentum and landing on the white cathedral steps.

Once they stopped rolling the hedgehogs uncurled immediately, Sonic letting out a pained groan. Shadow didn't seem any better off, black lids squeezed together with an uncomfortable grimace on his muzzle.

"Shit...that wasn't very smart of me, huh?" the hero cackled, struggling to sit upright.

"Shut up. That was incredibly stupid," Shadow ground out.

"Are you never satisfied with a race unless you win or we end up tangled up and bruised on the ground?"

"Hey I didn't intend on crashing into you and falling fifty feet! Ugh...Though I gotta admit you're the first person I'd choose to do it with..."

"Hmph. What an honor."

"You okay though?" Sonic asked scooting closer to his partner. Gingerly he picked up Shadow's arm, noticing a small gash down the side.

"I'm alright. It will heal in a few minutes or so."

"Sure you don't want me to try healing it?"

"And get my arm blasted off entirely? Do you know how long it takes an arm to grow back?"

"Your arms grow back?" Sonic blinked.

Shadow caught the spark of curiosity in their bond before shooing his partner's hands away immediately.

"Don't get any ideas; I'm not keen on losing any limbs regardless."

"Alright, alright, I hear ya." The blue hedgehog shrugged and put his arms behind his head, leaning back on the steps. A black hand reached out and rubbed gently on his chest as soothing Chaos energy tinged through his body.

"Whatcha doin'?"

"Healing you."

"I'm fiiinneee, babe." Sonic drawled lazily.

"Hmn, yes, it appears that way. I was just making sure." Shadow's hand trailed higher, caressing his peach muzzle tenderly. Sonic closed his eyes and leaned into the gesture, feeling the warm languid wavelength against his cheek.

"I've been meaning to ask you," Shadow started as he pulled his hand away.

"Hm?"

"Do you know why Amy picked this place as our final stop? The city is beautiful, but I can sense that there is more to it than that, if your strong nostalgic energy is anything to go by."

"Ah," Sonic chuckled as he opened his eyes.

"This is where Amy and I met."

"Here? On Little Planet?"

"Yeah, uh, well sort of. Back then Amy was like, a super big fan of me. It was kind of cute actually, when I think about it. Ya know, before she went through her rabid fangirl phase way later."

"Uh-huh." Shadow replied dryly.

"Anyway, she followed me to Never Lake and I had no idea that she came after me. Eggman caught her and brought her all the way here as bait. Had to race his dumb Metal Sonic just to save her."

"...I see why this place is special to the two of you then."

Sonic snickered.

"The three of us, you mean. You got to make a memory here now too."

Shadow tried his best to hide a smile.

"I suppose so."

"Oh! Hey, what time is it?"

"Hm, its about 1pm." Shadow pulled out his phone along with the folded paper from his quills. He unfolded the sheet and eyed it carefully as he tapped on the small screen.

"Tails said that's a website we have to go to right?" Sonic asked as he leaned over his rival's shoulder.

"Yes, though I have no clue- wait what? Oh-!" The dark hedgehog turned the phone away from his face before slamming it down on his thigh.

"What? What did you see?"

"Myself." he replied evenly.

"Huh?"

"It's a livestream-"

Sonic swiped the phone out of Shadow's hand before he could finish. He lifted the phone a bit higher over his head and saw himself reflected in a small square in the top left corner. The rest of the screen was filled with thousands of comments and various emojis rolling by so fast he could barely see them.

"Whoaaaa! Dude there's seventy-five thousand people in here and counting!" He exclaimed waving at the front camera. The stream audience flooded the chat with heart reactions at the gesture.

"Yes I'm aware. Amy must have told her followers about this beforehand."

"This is so amazing! C'mere babe, people are asking where you went."

The dark hedgehog shook his head.

"I don't like being filmed any more than I like being documented in photos. Frankly I'm surprised the stream is working if we're supposed to be in the future-"

"Eh, I told you this place is weird. But who cares? Now come oooonnnn! All these people wanna see you."

"I'd rather they didn't."

"Amy wanted us to do this, remember Shads? We promised to follow all the instructions..." He smirked and tapped the screen to bring up the keyboard.

"If you don't, I'll share all your kitty pictures-"

"Fine." Shadow growled as he scooted closer to the hero. Immediately, Sonic wrapped an arm over his shoulder and planted a gentle kiss on his temple.

"Hey guys! You all know my very attractive buddy, Shadow the hedgehog right? Say 'Hi' to the people, Shads."

"Er..." Shadow fumbled with his hands and sat up straight, giving a polite nod.

"Yes...Hello."

A loud ping noise sounded through the phone as more reactions and comments came through the chat.

"Whoa, hey! How are you getting way more reactions than I did?" Sonic chuckled as he scrolled through the thousands of replies pouring in.

"Hm, you're also getting some very saucy replies too- y'all better keep it in your virtual pants, he's mine!"

Shadow paled at his words and instantly slammed a hand over his mouth.

"Are you an idiot or just stupid?!" He growled. Though the hero didn't seem phased at all and pushed his hands away with a goofy grin.

"C'mon, its not like they don't know. Plus it's not like you to be suddenly worried about your image; what do you care?"

"I don't care about mine, but these are your-"

"Our. They're Our fans. You haven't seen it as often as I have, but I've been looking at their support every day. People have been following us during this entire trip, not just because of me or Amy, but you too. You don't gotta feel like an outsider anymore. Especially when you're with me, okay?"

Something was stirring inside Shadow's chaos wavelength at his words, but Sonic couldn't make out exactly what emotion it was. His partner's blank expression didn't help either. Red eyes trailed back to the screen for a moment, moving slightly as the comments flew by. Finally his energy returned to its slow rhythm and Shadow sighed, seeming much more relaxed than before.

"Okay."

"Good...now, can I say it?"

"If you insist, yes."

Sonic cleared his throat and propped the phone up on his knee so both of his hands were free. He pulled Shadow in closer and nuzzled his face before declaring all too loudly:

"This guy right here, is 100% Boyfriend of yours truly, Sonic the Hedgehog!"

"Did you have to do that so close to my ear-"

"Sorry ladies, I know you'll miss him, but he's mine and I will definitely throw hands about it."

"Alright, that's enough."

"And his ass is-"

"Stop." Shadow growled low and pinched his peach belly roughly.

"Fine, fine," Sonic laughed as he pushed his hand away.

"Okay so...someone suggested a Q and A in the comments. Wanna do it, Shads?"

The ultimate life form shrugged.

"I will only answer three questions pertaining to the trip. None about my past or any private questions about our relationship."

"Cool! Just read through the comments and see if there's anything you wanna answer."

Shadow took the phone and watched carefully, scanning the replies as they came through.

'Did you guys see the Grand Prix?'

' Iz Rouge yor sis?'

'The petal festival looked fun, was it fun?'

'Hav you 2 read the letter?'

"The letter..." He said softly to himself. Shadow reached into his quills quickly and pulled out the red stamped letter Amy left them, slightly ashamed he had almost forgotten about it.

"They asked about the letter Amy left us."

Sonic's eyes widened a fraction and his body stiffened. It seemed he had forgotten about it too.

"O-oh yeah? I didn't know they knew..."

"We don't have to read it in front of them if you don't want to." Shadow reached for the blue hedgehog's hand far below the camera view.

"No, it's okay, we can. Besides, if Amy told them about it too I feel like she wants all of us to hear it, yeah?" He slipped the letter from Shadow's hand and tore the flap open to reach inside. Gingerly he pulled out a pink folded sheet of notebook paper, along with a tiny silver key.

"Hm, I wonder where that goes..." Shadow said to himself as he plucked the key from under a flap in the paper.

"I bet its in the letter. Mind holding the phone for me so people can hear while I read it?"

"You would...rather read it aloud this time...? Are you sure?"

"Yeah, I think I'm up to it." Sonic winked and flashed his classic hero smile. A warm sensation entered his mind as he felt his rival poking around his chaos energy checking for anything that said otherwise. Satisfied, Shadow relented and gave a quick nod, allowing him to continue.

"Go on."

"Heh...okay, lets see." The hero unfolded it carefully and ran a hand over the paper smoothing out the creases as he spoke softly;

"Dear Sonic, Shadow, and everyone else.

First off, if you mixed up the letters and read this one first, put it down. DOWN. NOW. Wait till the end and put the key back, you blue dummy.

If you're reading this at the end of the line, I'd like to say congratulations to both of you! You made it through without killing each other!

I know that this trip was sudden, and maybe even a bit weird but I knew I had to do this. You both mean so much to me, to the world, and I wanted you guys to become closer than you ever could have been before.

Shadow, you've always felt like the world was against you, and for a long time it really was. But I want you to know that no matter what, you're apart of Team Sonic and we will face the world with you. I hope that going to all of these places made you feel closer to us in some way. That being where we've been, from beginning to end, made it clear that you'll always have us by your side.

Sonic, I know that even though you're stronger than most of us, you also suffer more than any of us. I hope that reliving the past on this trip has helped you realize how much you've done, and how much we appreciate and admire you for the sacrifices you've made for us. How much...Shadow and I admire you in particular. You're an amazing person, a star too bright for even the most vile of villains to burn out.

You both have so much to offer one another, and this world and worlds beyond! Everyone loves you and believes in you, and we're cheering you both on. This trip may be over, but for you guys its the beginning of something greater. Thank you all for being in my life and showing me true happiness.

-Amy Rose

P.S.

The key is to my 'Heart'. Vanilla will know where it is. I think what you'll find will help you guys for years to come. "

The hero struggled on the last sentence, emotion slowly overwhelming him as he read the letter. Green eyes became glossy and unfocused and he cleared his throat a little once he finished. Shadow tilted the camera screen toward himself for a moment, giving Sonic a chance to dry his eyes on his jacket sleeve.

'Are you alright?' He mouthed to the hero quickly. Although judging from his energy, Shadow already knew the answer.

"Yeah, I..." Sonic sniffled a bit, though his voice was firmer than before.

"I'm okay. I'm...a lot...more okay."

The small, fragile emotion bleeding through their bond was clear as day to the ultimate life form. It was something he had felt before not to long ago; the delicate veil of grief slowly being pulled away. However it was a new sensitive emotion that was difficult to keep alive and since they had an audience present, he decided not to press further. Shadow willed some of his chaos energy into Sonic's wavelength, curling around it protectively to give him some silent reassurance.

"Want it back now?"

"Yeah, heh." The blue hedgehog replied taking the phone from him.

"Sorry guys, I uh...just didn't feel too good for a sec, you know? But...I'm just glad that you all loved her as much as we did. That means a lot. So from us to you; Thank You."

Shadow chuckled seeing the onslaught of comments and reactions pouring over the screen to the point his phone momentarily froze during the chat. Every so often he caught a glimpse of the replies; some long, some short, others misspelled or full of nothing but hearts, and a few that were a strange mix of reactions the dark hedgehog couldn't decipher but knew what they meant anyway.

He glanced over at his partner, his face practically glowing with affection and appreciation as he gazed at the screen. Shadow had always assumed Sonic's attachment to his fans was superficial; the hero seemed way too invested in his own image sometimes. But these were people who's lives he had saved, people who he had never met but sworn to protect no matter the cost.

Then Shadow realized...these people were his people too.

Gently he leaned in and planted a kiss on Sonic's cheek, the hero turning to him immediately at the gesture. His eyes were still a bit glossy, but his energy was overflowing with affection.

"Hey..."

"Yeah, babe?"

"You know...we still didn't finish our race."

Blue ears perked up eagerly pulling a smirk from Shadow's lips.

"You're right...and this time, we have an audience...hey, you guys wanna see me kick my boyfriend's ass in a race?"

'Team Sonic wins!'

'Yall trippin' Shadow is ultimate life form ergo he wins'

'#TeamShadow'

'SAD DOUBTING THE ONE TRUE HERO'

The audience seemed to be in an uproar, as various words and reactions were thrown back and forth. Sonic laughed zipped the phone up in his jacket, making sure the screen faced outward.

"Seems like they're undecided on who they think is gonna win, Shads."

"Oh really now?" Shadow asked narrowing his eyes.

"Why don't we settle it for them then, Love?"

Unable to hold back, Sonic posed against the cathedral stairs in a runners stance again. Shadow crouched down and did the same, rocket boots sparking brighter than before. He wasn't going to hold back this time; exactly what the blue hedgehog was hoping for.

Wordlessly the rivals sped off in unison down the glowing speedway streets. The rest of the world and its problems completely forgotten for the moment, as the hero and his partner lost themselves in the empty city and disappeared into the night.

Chapter Text

Blue ears perked at a low rumble and suddenly Sonic was alert.

He eyed the window for a moment, then relaxed once he noticed raindrops tap gently at the foggy glass. It was only a storm. The hero ran a hand through blue quills in frustration, annoyed by how jumpy he was today. He closed his eyes and breathed out slowly, trying to calm his mind by focusing on his surroundings.

He felt the cool air circulating through the apartment, wafting the faint, familiar scent of cologne from the bedroom. Incense burned on the shelf nearby, leaving ribbons of thin smoke curling in the air. Somewhere in the kitchen a radio played muffled jazz music, the languid rhythm adding a layer of tranquility to the dimly lit room. It was quiet. Peaceful.

Or rather, it should have been.

Normally Sonic would feel relaxed resting in Shadow's apartment by himself, but today everything felt as if it were on the verge of slipping away from him. He sighed heavily and stretched out on the black couch, anxiety gnawing at his stomach. Shadow had only been gone for an hour or so and the hero still felt like that was far too long. Even then, he knew what would happen once his partner came back home and what they had to do.

Green eyes drifted toward the key resting on Shadow's kitchen counter, thinking back to when they first discovered it. A mix of guilt and anger suddenly washed over him and Sonic rolled over, burying his face into the black couch pillows.

How did this tiny little key become such a huge problem...?


On the last night of their adventure, the hedgehogs found a key hidden inside an envelope Amy had left for them along with a heartfelt letter. At the time, Sonic was excited and curious about what the key unlocked. According to the letter, Miss Vanilla had the answer, but she had been sick with grief since Amy's sudden passing. While the hero was eager to ask her about it, he decided to wait a little longer before approaching her on the matter.

Once they left Little Planet and returned home, Shadow suggested Sonic spend the night at his apartment and he was more than happy to take him up on the offer. In the past, Shadow's home had always been a place the hero would go anytime he needed to escape from the rest of the world. After everything they had been through together Sonic felt closer to his rival than he ever had before, and he knew Shadow felt the same. Now the apartment almost felt like a second home to him.

Which is why that single night stay had 'accidentally' turned into nearly two weeks.

Shadow still had the rest of the month off from work, so he was able to give the blue hedgehog his full, undivided attention. The weeks seemed to go by all too quickly, blending together in a fuzzy haze of stolen kisses, and pure, hot chaos energy. It was probably the longest Sonic had ever stayed in one place, let alone indoors, and he was comfortable there.

However earlier that morning, Shadow was the one to finally address the elephant in the room. Something Sonic himself had been purposely ignoring since they returned home.

"You still have the key Amy gave us, yes?"

The blue hedgehog's first instinct was to feign innocence or even lie, but the foreign chaos energy thrumming in the back of his mind reminded him that neither of those were an option. Having a partner that could sense your emotions made lying in a convincing way rather difficult. Shadow adjusted the coffee maker idly, red eyes eventually trailing over to his partner as he waited for a response.

"I do..."

"We should pay a visit to Miss Vanilla then, before we forget about it."

"Yeah, that makes sense..." Sonic replied leaning on the kitchen counter. He reached out and pulled gently on his partner's tail, a hint of pleading in his voice.

"Maybe we can do it next week...?"

"No...I'm afraid I need to prepare for a mission tomorrow. It will be for at least a week or two." A small grin flashed on his muzzle.

"I don't think I can wait that long to see what Amy left for us."

"Right, right, neither can I...! I've just been a little hesitant because of Vanilla. I wouldn't want to...you know, make her feel bad, or worse."

"Hmn..." The dark hedgehog tapped his foot thoughtfully.

"We could always bring her flowers. The gesture could ease her grief a little, perhaps. I know of a flower shop a few blocks from here, I'll stop by there on my way home."

Sonic rose from the counter as he noticed his partner pick up a set of keys.

"You're going out? Can I come?"

"It would be best that you didn't," Shadow flipped the keyring in his hands until he found the one to the apartment door. Anxiety leaked through their bond and he glanced up at the hero, noticing the change immediately.

"I have to meet with a few of my colleagues for a briefing and prepare for my mission. It won't take too long, Love. I promise." A wave of reassurance followed shortly after and Sonic accepted it gratefully, giving his partner a quick kiss on the lips.

"You don't have to tell me that Shads, I'll be fine." He insisted. Though Sonic knew Shadow had spotted his anxiety clear as day. Thankfully the ultimate lifeform decided not to press the issue further and simply gave a nod in return.

"I'll be back, and we can head straight to Vanilla's house." he said closing the door behind him.

"I won't keep you waiting long."


An hour is almost an eternity in 'Sonic time' but honesty, the blue hedgehog was unsure if he wanted his rival to come home sooner or stay out longer.

It wasn't as if Sonic did not want to know what Amy had left for them. If anything, he was probably more excited about it than Shadow was. But their relationship had blossomed since the start of this adventure, and deep down, he was afraid of what it would be like once it was over. Completing this last task marked the end of their journey, and Sonic was worried that Shadow would pick up his solitary lifestyle once again if left to his own devices. A mission starting so soon would only add to the amount of time they would be separated as well.

"Tch..." The hero scoffed at himself.

"How the hell did I go from being a rolling stone, to being horribly clingy?"

Shadow didn't appear to mind Sonic squatting at his house. On the contrary, he seemed to enjoy it, if the frequent nights of intimacy were anything to go by.

'But still... '

His partner had a habit of disappearing for long periods of time in the past. Sometimes of his own accord like the last four years, and other times, due circumstances beyond his control.

For a moment the events on the Ark flashed through Sonic's mind, but he shoved them away immediately.

Chaos, was he really going that deep into this and its only been an hour?

Jingling keys caught his attention and Sonic whipped toward the door, noticing Shadow with a rather large bouquet of pink and white flowers in hand. They were taller than the dark hedgehog himself and a few stray petals were caught in his quills.

"Wow Shads, I didn't take you to be the type to go all out on some flowers, haha."

"I'm not," he sighed tossing the keys on the living room table.

"The florist assumed the bouquet was for you and wanted to...help. Apparently word of our relationship has spread quicker than I imagined."

Sonic gave his rival a sympathetic smile and took the flowers, allowing Shadow a moment to brush himself off.

"Sorry about that. Are you okay with uh...stuff like this happening? Because it's going to happen a lot, probably."

"It doesn't bother me as long as its a positive response. It's just...unusual. Though Rouge told me I simply need to adjust to being 'liked' by the public. Of course she did warn me there might be a few people who would not approve of us but..." The dark hedgehog smirked knowingly.

"I know how to deal with them."

Sonic snorted and gave him a gentle shove.

"Jeez you say that like you're just waiting to snap some heads." He wrapped his arm over Shadow's shoulder and gave him a light squeeze.

"Ah, for you, I would."

"Quit being so romantic, Babe. You're gonna make me act up. Unless...that's what you want...?"

"Mmm, normally I'd take you up on that offer, but we still have someplace to be today." His rival replied, carefully sliding out of the hug.

"Did you let Vanilla know we were coming over?"

"I uh...forgot to actually. Cream knows though, so she should've told her mom."

Shadow made his way over to the kitchen counter and picked up the key, tucking it into the side of his inhibitor ring. Sonic could feel his stomach clench at the sight but said nothing, secretly hoping his partner didn't feel it through their bond. If Shadow had caught on to the change, he didn't give it away. He reached into black quills and retrieved a green Chaos Emerald, holding out his free hand to the blue hedgehog.

"Let's get going then, shall we?"

"Ah, yeah..." Sonic sighed with a strained smile.

"Let's uh...lets get to it."


"How are they, Dear?"

"They're really good!" Cream exclaimed as she reached for another cookie on the kitchen table.

"Probably your best yet, Mom. Mr. Shadow will definitely like them."

"Oh, Aren't you just a sweetheart?" Vanilla replied, giving her daughter a quick kiss on her forehead. Gingerly the woman stretched her arms before taking a seat at the table as well.

"Sonic seems to like anything I make but I recall Shadow isn't fond of overly sweet things. These snickerdoodles should do the trick..." A yawn escaped her before she could stop it and Vanilla rested her head on the table, exhausted.

"I'm sorry Dearie, I've just been so tired lately..."

"Its okay Momma." Cream said softly.

"You've been in bed a lot after all. I'm just glad you're feeling well enough to bake with me!"

"Me too...spending time with you is always a treasure; I just wish I was able to do more..."

The young rabbit put a hand on her mother's shoulder for a moment, brown eyes wide and sympathetic. Vanilla opened her mouth to continue but Cream immediately shook her head.

"Don't say that. You just need time; we all do. Please don't blame yourself. I'm just happy we could do this today."

For a moment, her mother seemed as if she was thinking of a reason to object. Her tired eyes were deep and focused, looking past the young girl in front of her. Eventually, Vanilla relaxed and nodded. Cream could tell she was dwelling on her old thoughts again. Things her mother wished she had done back then, and things she wished she was capable of doing now.

"Do you want to go rest again, Momma?" Cream asked as she gently rubbed her back in support.

"No...I'm okay, Sweetheart. Besides, Sonic said he needed to speak with me today-"

Suddenly a bright light flashed in front of them, filling the room with pure, blinding white. Vanilla gripped her daughter instinctively, pulling her close away from the source of the flash. Cream squinted as she tried to adjust her eyes in the light, straining to get a glimpse of what had caused it.

The light disappeared as soon as it came, and in its place were two familiar looking hedgehogs who looked just as surprised as they did. Sonic blinked and let out an amused huff before nudging his partner in the ribs.

"Shads I told you we should've teleported outside of the house!"

"I've only been to this house a few times; the only place I could think of was the kitchen." Shadow replied evenly. He turned to Cream and her mother before quickly handing off the flowers to Vanilla.

"I apologize for scaring you; I didn't know you would be in here when we arrived."

"That's why we knock first, babe. It's polite." The hero snorted.

"I-its quite alright," Vanilla stuttered and set the bouquet of flowers on the table.

"And thank you, these are so lovely...oh, but you didn't have to go to so much trouble for me. Help yourselves to some cookies in return; we just finished making them."

"Oh sweet, cookies!" Sonic cheered as he rushed over to the kitchen table. Shadow followed behind him and pulled up a chair across from Vanilla, waiting politely for her to continue.

"Ah...Cream, could you give us a little time alone, Dear?" She asked petting her daughter's head.

"Of course, Momma. I have to call Tails anyway. He said he wanted to meet up later today." with a short wave, the young rabbit excused herself and quickly left the kitchen. Vanilla waited for a few heartbeats until she heard the soft thud of Cream's bedroom door before addressing the two hedgehogs. She laced her fingers together on the table and sighed, trying her best to give a confident, friendly smile.

"Now then...I was told that you two wanted to talk to me about something?"

"Oh! Yeah um..." The hero swallowed a mouthful of cookies and wiped stray crumbs off his chest. Shadow glared in his direction but Sonic paid him no attention, able to feel his partner's scolding clearly through their bond. Peach hands fumbled around in his jacket pockets before pulling out a neatly folded piece of paper.

"Amy left us a letter...and we were hoping you could help us out."

"She told us that we needed to ask you about finding her 'heart', " Shadow chimed in, pulling out the silver key from his inhibitor ring.

"and she left us this."

Immediately the woman paled once her gaze landed on the key in his hands. Shadow noticed but said nothing, allowing her a few moments to gather her thoughts.

"She said...I knew where this heart was?" Vanilla asked softly, her delicate hands unfolding the letter on the table. Brown eyes roamed the paper before settling for a long time on the last line at the bottom. Her strained, cheerful smile had all but vanished and Sonic was able to see how truly exhausted the poor woman was. Desperate to comfort her, he reached out across the table and gently placed his hand over hers.

"We really didn't want to bother you if you weren't feeling well so we waited a while. If you're not sure about what she's talking about its fine-"

"I know what she's referring to." Vanilla replied evenly. She slipped her hand out from under his to fold the paper up again.

"I'm sorry. I just...didn't expect her to give it away." A genuine, sad smile graced her lips.

"Well I suppose it's for a good reason."

"Give...what away?" The blue hedgehog asked leaning back into his chair.

"Hm, well, you already have a part of- ah...I should just show you."

Without another word Vanilla pushed away from the kitchen table and went into the living room, heading upstairs. The two hedgehogs exchanged curious glances before leaving the table and heading up after her. The woman stopped on the top of the stairs and looked over her shoulder to make sure they were following before she continued up the staircase.

"It's up here, follow me."

Sonic had to admit, as many times as he had visited their home, he'd never actually been in Amy's room. He stood in the doorway, or hung in the window, but had never set foot inside.

Even Shadow had entered in her room in the few times he'd been here, but the hero never really mustered the courage himself. Amy never invited him to go beyond the doorway either.

It was a line Sonic personally was not comfortable crossing; it felt highly inappropriate to him, despite the girl's romantic feelings dying off ages ago. However it had gone on for so long and for so many years, that neither of them decided to mention it. Being in her room now without her, somehow felt as if the blue hedgehog had broken an unspoken rule.

Its hot pink walls and white lacy curtains seemed so much more vivid up close to the point it made the hero's eyes hurt a little. The plush red carpet looked freshly vacuumed, and tidy white shelves lined up on the wall above the window. In the far corner was a pink loft bed with floral sheets, the desk underneath littered with paper balls and pens in front of an open laptop. The only spot in her room Amy would ever allow a mess.

Sonic's chest ached; it felt as if she was still there and would be back any minute.

"Here..." Vanilla called, catching the hero's attention. Beside Amy's desk was her classic Piko-Piko hammer, sitting upside down and significantly less intimidating without its owner.

Shadow ran his finger over the hammer's handle, feeling its worn out metal grip. It appeared it had been touched up several times with leather, but the material hardly stood a chance against Amy's heavy handed nature in battle.

"I had wondered where this had gone." He said thumbing the cracked fabric.

"This was Amy's most prized possession. Well, her second." Vanilla sighed as she leaned against the desk.

"The President had asked me several times for it so he could honor her memory, but I declined. It belongs with the people who loved her. Besides...she always told me she would like to pass it on to Cream someday."

"It's kinda heavy for her isn't it?" Sonic asked nudging the hammer slightly.

"Really now? I figured you would know better than anyone to never underestimate a girl's fighting spirit, Sonic."

"Heh...good point." He chuckled, feeling more at ease after hearing Vanilla's cheeky reply.

"Speaking of the hammer, why did you want to show this to us?"

Shadow tapped a gloved finger to the head of the weapon, before turning back to his partner.

"I believe I found the reason why. Come look."

Sonic kneeled down to get a better look at where the dark hedgehog was pointing. The Piko-Piko hammer had several raised rectangle sections in the middle that went around all its sides. The topmost section had a small shallow heart engraved on top, with a keyhole chiseled into its center.

Sonic tilted his head, surprised.

"Wow, the entire time I've seen her with this thing, I never noticed that..."

"Possibly because you were usually on the receiving end." Shadow replied dryly. He glanced over towards Vanilla as she quickly stood up away from them, and made her way over to the door.

"Is everything alright, Miss Vanilla?" He asked, catching her off guard. She halted and her body visibly stiffened, but she did not turn to face them. Slowly, Vanilla lifted a hand to the door frame to steady herself. Although he couldn't see her face, it was obvious she was struggling to form a reply.

"It's fine." The woman said tightly, though her voice cracked slightly under the strain. Sonic could tell that despite the harsh tone, there was no real anger in her voice.

"...If you really don't want us to take what's inside, we won't." The hero said as he got to his feet. Shadow looked at his partner, an eye ridge raised as if he wanted to object, but remained silent.

"It's totally up to you. No matter what's inside, I'm fine not knowing if it means you and Cream will be okay."

A breathless chuckle left Vanilla as she turned around, beautiful brown eyes glossy and her white muzzle flushed with pink.

"Oh Sonic...you're such a good boy. You've always been." She sighed and wiped her eyes.

"No...if...if her wish is to give it to you, I have no place to say where it goes. I have so much of her items already, and her hammer, it shouldn't matter, should it?"

Sonic walked over to her and gently held her hand.

"I know that Cream and I were not the only ones who loved Amy, I shouldn't try to horde everything she owned...especially from her dearest friends. It's selfish of me, isn't it...?"

"No," He replied immediately.

"No...its not."

Unable to help herself, Vanilla looked into Sonic's eyes, at a loss of what to say. She was met with the same reassuring gaze she had seen time and time again from the heroic blue hedgehog. A pure, honest expression that held so much yet simply said 'I am here for you.'

A sob wracked the woman's body and she raised her free hand up to her mouth, trying to hold back another that threatened to come to the surface. Sonic squeezed her hand tighter and pulled her in close, feeling his heart collapse the moment Vanilla leaned against him as if she could no longer stand on her own.

"It's never selfish to love someone that much, you know?"

She nodded her head and buried her face in his shoulder, unable to form the words to answer.

They stayed that way for several moments and Shadow kept his distance, using his chaos energy to gauge how his partner was feeling and if he needed any support himself. A confident, calm wave pushed back and wound its way around the dark hedgehog's energy in reply, assuring him that he was alright.

It was hard to comfort someone when you were hurting just as much, but the hero was more than willing to do so for those he cherished most.

And he knew that if it ever became too much, Shadow was there for him.

Vanilla was the first to break the hug and placed a kiss on the hero's forehead.

"...Thank you."

"N-no problem." Sonic stammered, rubbing the spot sheepishly.

"...If you guys ever need anything, don't hesitate to let me know, okay?"

"Oh, Dear...we ask so much of you already, what more could you possibly do?" She replied wiping her eyes again.

"The only thing everyone really needs right now is...time I suppose. I'm...I'm going to go take a little nap for now but...please... take care of yourselves for me, okay?"

"No problem, you just get some rest." Sonic said before giving Vanilla another quick hug. The woman still seemed incredibly tired, but her eyes were filled with a familiar warmth he was happy to see again. Without another word she slipped away, leaving the heroes alone to open their last gift from Amy.

The hero watched her go, suddenly more aware than ever before of how close they were to the end of their journey. A creeping dread rose in his chest but he tucked it away before Shadow could sense it himself through their connection.

Sonic sighed and turned to his partner making sure to flash his classic heroic smile.

"So, I guess now we should uh...check and see what's inside the hammer?"

"Of course." Shadow agreed. He tilted the weapon upright and quickly slid the key inside, turning it until a loud metallic click sounded from the head of the hammer.

The room was horribly quiet as he slipped the red section backwards and reached into a small carved indent underneath. From what Sonic could tell it was not particularly deep, which meant their gift had to be quite small. The dark hedgehog pulled out a little rosewood box with yet another heart-shaped lock carved into the seam. Undaunted, Shadow set the hammer back down and cradled the box in his palm, ready to try the silver key into the second lock. Sonic held his breath.

"Wait..!" He said quickly.

"What?"

"I...I don't really like doing this here."

"Here?"

"I-In her room." The hero stuttered.

" 'Feels weird doing this without her, in her room."

"Hmm..."

While he was being completely honest about feeling weird without her, Sonic realized he was desperately trying to prolong their time together as long as he could. A vicious cycle of excitement and anxiety rolled around in his chest, torn between wanting to know what was inside and fear of their adventure ending much too soon. Shadow seemed rather calm about the situation from what the hero could tell, which only concerned him even more; he was normally the more possessive one between them. If he wasn't concerned about their relationship after this, Sonic assumed his partner was unaware of his tendency to drift away if left on his own.

"I suppose you're right." Shadow replied, breaking the hero out of his thoughts. He stood up and held his hand out to the blue hedgehog as he reached for his Chaos emerald with the other.

"Come with me."

"Uh, sure...where we goin?"

A knowing smirk spread across Shadow's muzzle.

"You'll see."


The storm outside had calmed overhead, and sunlight began peeking its way though the cloudy sky. Autumn trees swayed in the breeze as their harmonious rustling muffled the sounds of the city a few miles away. Raindrops covered the grass in thousands of tiny sparkles and gave the land a fresh, earthy scent.

Sonic seemed undeterred by the dampness as he sat down in front of Amy's headstone, running his fingers over the solid, etched letters once again.

"Hey Ames," the hero said softly.

"I'm sorry we've been gone a while. Longer than I thought we would be, but that's kinda my fault. Heh..."

Shadow sat near the grave beside him, grimacing at the feel of wet grass seeping through his fur. Sonic snickered as a thin veil of irritation fluttered through their bond; it was just water. He would survive.

"Thanks for bringing us here, Shads. I can't believe we almost did this without the lady who made it possible."

"I figured it would be best," his rival started, retrieving the small box and key from his quills.

"...to end this journey where it began, don't you think?"

Expectant red eyes met green as he handed the items off to the hero and placed them in his lap. Somehow, the idea that Sonic had to end this with his own hands made the situation even more stressful. At the same time he knew Shadow was trying to be polite; Sonic had been the closest to her and it was only fair that the blue hedgehog would be the one to open it.

"Alright..."

Slowly he exhaled, taking a moment to glance around the cemetery and get his bearings before taking the box into his hands.

"Here we go."

Shadow eyed him intensely, his Chaos energy thrumming low but skipping a beat as Sonic slipped the key into the lock. He turned it slowly until he heard an audible tiny click somewhere inside. Gingerly the key was set aside on his thigh and he opened the pink box, eyes blowing wide once he realized what was hidden away inside.

A large golden eye stared back at him, and Sonic knew immediately he had seen it somewhere before. The eye was painted onto a small card with matching gold around the edges and set into a deep purple background. Carefully he tilted the object out of the box into his palm. Several more cards fell out into a stack, bound to a tiny instruction book with a yellow ribbon.

"Its..."

"Its the rest of her Tarot deck." Shadow finished, a hint of surprise evident in his tone.

"The cards in her book...they were from her personal deck."

The blue hedgehog reached out and spread his fingers over the cards, a sad smile making its way onto his muzzle. Peach cheeks began to take on a rosey pink shade and Sonic blinked rapidly, feeling tears welling up in the corner of his vision and threatening to fall any moment.

"Yeah...it is." He said, hoarsely.

"I can't believe she wanted us to have...to have this."

Shadow nodded, gently pulling the deck out of his rival's hands to inspect it himself. A warm, soft emotion curled from his wavelength and Sonic could feel it clear as day; he seemed to be having trouble conveying it, but the ultimate life form was genuinely touched.

"Amy once told me, that Tarot cards were very special to those who have faith in the universe," Shadow said wistfully.

"and that, to be gifted one that was owned previously is quite significant."

The hero shook his head, trying to keep his sad smile from morphing into a bitter one. These cards were Amy's most prized possession; she had just as much faith in them as she did in Sonic himself. He couldn't believe a part of him didn't want to know what was inside the box, when it was something as irreplaceable as this. These were the most precious things she had ever owned, and a far more generous gift than he could have ever imagined.

"Are you alright?" Shadow asked. He picked up on the hero's distress immediately and reached out to hold his hand.

"I'm alright," Sonic replied.

"I just...wish I knew...how to thank her."

"Well, perhaps we can use them now while she's here?" The ultimate life form suggested untying the delicate yellow ribbon from the deck.

"Amy left us a little instruction booklet after all. She intended for us to use them."

"Okay...well...what do you think should we ask?"

"What would you like to know?"

"Oh. Hm...I wanna know..." His gaze trailed up from the deck to Shadow's eyes for a moment and he clenched his jaw, knowing instantly what he wanted to ask.

"I wanna know, where do we go from here. What do we do now?"

To the hero's surprise his partner didn't ask for any details. Shadow merely shrugged and began to shuffle the cards, his hands moving incredibly fast in short, accurate motions without breaking eye contact. He then placed the deck neatly on his thigh and gestured for Sonic to pick one from the pile.

"Focus your mind on what you want to know, then pick."

"Wow Shads, that was some fancy shufflin'. Have you been gambling behind my back or is that some 'ultimate lifeform' skill?"

"You learn a few things when you're a secret agent and every single mission starts with a cliché meet up at a casino. Now, go on."

The hero snorted at his rival's answer before directing his attention back to the Tarot cards. He tried to clear his mind and focus on the question as he pulled a single card from the middle of the deck, lifting it face up. Immediately, Sonic's nose scrunched up in confusion.

"What is it?"

He flipped it around for Shadow to see.

"It says...The World."

The image on the card depicted a beautiful nude woman in purple cloth holding batons in each hand. Her face held a carefree expression as she danced inside a laurel leaf circle in the sky. Around her were four winged, bodiless creatures in each corner of the card; a cherub, a lion, an eagle and a bull.

"This is probably the wackiest card we've gotten so far. I wonder what it means."

"Yes...luckily we were given instructions on how to figure that out." Shadow replied handing his partner the small booklet. Sonic took it and turned the book around a few times in his hands. On closer inspection, it appeared to be handmade, its red leather binding held together with cross stitches and hot glue.

Carefully he opened the book, looking through the pages until he found 'The World' title. He smiled noticing that Amy had filled the pages with her own writing, though her penmanship was much neater here then it was in their quest notebook.

Inside was written the meaning of various symbols and their relation to the card that Sonic didn't quite understand, along with a few runes he didn't bother trying to read. They seemed to be detailed notes that Amy made for herself when she read fortunes for others. Eventually at the bottom of the page he found the definition he was looking for.

"It says...'Congratulations! The World card means you've made it to the finish line! Or at the very least, you're insanely close.

The World (Upright) means that you have completed your journey, your trials, and you have come out on top stronger than before. That the universe is telling you; 'you made it and you are complete!' Your goal has been met and you can enjoy the fruits of your labor and let go of everything. It can also mean the start of something new. Maybe travel, a new adventure, or something exciting coming your way now that you have everything falling into place at the right time. Be careful, be safe, and enjoy your life!' "

Sonic couldn't help himself and cracked an amused grin; Amy's sweet, cheerful tone practically echoed in his ears as he read the meaning of the card out loud. He then noticed that his rival was suspiciously quiet and spared a glance in Shadow's direction. The dark hedgehog was reaching into his quills again, looking for something and seeming distracted.

"...What cha doin', babe?"

"That card reminded me...I have something for you."

"Oh?" he smirked.

"Is it a wedding ring?"

"Not quite." Shadow replied tossing a manila folder into the hero's lap. Curious, Sonic placed the card safely back into the deck and leafed through the folder. Inside were various documents and ID cards that he didn't recognize, along with a few mugshots of shady looking strangers.

"Shads...what am I looking at here, man."

"I would assume you know what GUN mission specs look like."

"Uh. Yeah. But why?"

"...I would like you to have some idea of our task before we head off tomorrow so you don't wing it like you usually do."

"Wait-you-"

Blue ears perked up as he snapped the folder shut.

"You want me to come with you?"

"I discussed it with the Commander. He will pay you accordingly for every mission you decide to participate in. I informed him that you don't have a bank account, so it will go into the Fox's savings account for now."

"Hold on, drop the formality for a sec...you planned for me to come with you?"

Shadow shrugged.

"Of course. I was the one who invited you back in Sand Ruins. It wasn't an empty gesture."

"Why didn't you tell me...?"

"Do you not want to come?"

"Of course I do! I just...!" Sonic scratched his head in frustration, suddenly feeling self conscious.

"I was...I didn't know you wanted me to come with you still. I'd told you I needed to stay here for everyone, but that was before I really took time to...to deal with losing Amy. Later on I realized that I wanted to come with you, but I had already rejected your offer so..."

"I know."

"You know what?"

Shadow rolled his eyes and gave his partner a dull look.

"Do you really think you were hiding your emotions from me that well? Tucking away your feelings doesn't mean I can't feel them when they initially appear. Vague thoughts and visions came into my mind anytime you stayed on the topic too long. I eventually understood what was bothering you shortly after we returned home; about a week or two ago."

Sonic scoffed and tossed the file back at him.

"What? Why didn't you say something?"

"At first, I assumed you would be smart enough to figure out that what you were doing wasn't going to work. But then, I remembered exactly who it is that I'm in love with,"

Shadow flashed cocky grin, causing the hero to narrow his eyes.

"And discovered that idea was a lost cause. So I decided to surprise you the day before the mission. However I had completely forgotten about the key until this morning, and could tell you were becoming anxious throughout the day after I mentioned it."

He thumbed 'The World' card as it sat slanted on the deck before picking it up and twirling it idly in his hands. Red eyes trailed up from the card momentarily, only to soften as they met Amy's headstone.

"This card slightly spoiled the surprise by mentioning a trip, which is something I didn't expect. Though I suppose we both have a habit of keeping things to ourselves until someone intervenes. Touché, Miss Rose."

Sonic let out a shaky sigh, chuckling nervously to himself. All the tension he had been holding in rushed out of his body at once and left the blue hedgehog at a loss for words.

"I swear, even when she's gone, she's still doing us too many favors."

Part of him felt ridiculous, even embarrassed for worrying so much about their relationship before; especially now that he knew Shadow had felt every single moment of it. Though there was some comfort in the fact that his rival was well aware of the situation and had his back, even when Sonic felt as if things were slipping out of his control.

"...it looks like it's getting ready to rain again, we should probably get going." The ultimate life form commented as he gestured above them. Dark clouds were gathering overhead and the gentle breeze had picked up significantly into a harsh, cold wind. The sun that peeked though the clouds only moments ago was now hidden behind a thick sheet of grey, nowhere to be seen.

"Are...you ready to go?"

"Ah, not yet. Can I have a second?"

"Of course. I'll be by the gate waiting." Shadow replied before standing up and dusting himself off.

"I'll leave you two alone."

Sonic watched his partner leave before standing up as well, pulling his varsity collar up around his neck as another gust of wind buffeted blue quills.

"Chaos, I just came back for a visit and now I'm leaving you again. Guess I'll never change huh?" he laughed and sheepishly kicked the grass.

"But...seriously. I just wanna say that I don't...know what I would have done without you in my life all these years. I dunno what I'm gonna do now frankly...but I'm glad I don't have to figure that out on my own, especially since you can't be here to kick me in the right direction."

The hero held up the small leather booklet in his hand and admired the cover as he spoke.

"I've always had your back through thick and thin, and well...now I guess its my turn for you to have mine. I don't think words can express how grateful I am. And don't worry, Ames. I'll take real good care of the gift you gave me."

He turned to spare a quick glance at his partner a few yards away, and snickered.

"Oh, and I'll take care of the tarot cards too."

A low rumble sounded above him and Sonic could see light droplets beginning to appear on the headstone. His heart twisted at the idea of having to leave so soon, but he made a mental note to come back immediately after their mission was over. To tell her all about the places they went, the things they saw not only from the her trip, but also every new adventure they would have again and again. To let her know that no matter where she went, or what happened, that Amy would always be his most cherished friend that he would do anything in the world for.

And this time, he promised he wouldn't forget.

"I'll- I'll miss you, so much, Ames. And from the bottom of my heart...Thank You. For everything."

The rain started to come down even harder but the hero was reluctant to move, wanting to linger just a bit longer. Eventually, a familiar warmth at the back of his mind began to pull at him, gently trying to coax him away. Sonic was about to follow but stopped short as if he had forgotten something. He took off his jacket and placed it over the gravestone before finally joining his partner by the gates.

"Were you worried about leaving her out in the rain?" Shadow asked once he realized the blue hedgehog was no longer wearing his varsity jacket.

"Its to make sure I come back and tell her everything about our adventure as soon as we're done. I know you bought it for me buuutttt...she'll be hanging on to it for a bit."

"Heh, I see."

"Hey Shads, I'm sorry about...you know, being such a panicky clingy weirdo these past few weeks."

Shadow shook his head before leaning in, and planting a gentle kiss on his rival's cheek.

"People change when they lose someone. You are no different. But remember what I told you, Sonic. I am always here for you. And I will never break that promise."

"I know, and I believe you. I just...forget sometimes I guess? This is new to me, trusting someone like this. So I might make a lot of mistakes."

"Oh you don't need to clarify; I anticipated that. Though I believe you're the one who said it best. We're both 'newbies'. But not to worry. I've got you."

"Heh yeah. And I have you too."

"You always did." Shadow said as he pulled his partner in close in an effort to shield him from some of the rain.

"So...are you...ready to go, Love?"

The question was a simple one, but Sonic had been with his rival long enough to know it was more than just about leaving the cemetery. Vibrant, chaotic energy pulsed through their bond as the hero tried to convey how he felt. To tell the ultimate life form that he would be okay and was doing better than he ever had since their journey began. Shadow chuckled and planted another kiss on his muzzle, letting Sonic know he got the message loud and clear.

The world suddenly seemed a little brighter than it had ever been in a long, long time. Sonic knew that he was prepared to take on anything the future held as long as he had Shadow by his side, and Amy's guidance in his hands.

"Yeah, Shadow. I'm totally ready now." he replied, breathless and eager for their next adventure.

"Let's go."