Sonic dives towards the wind, feeling it whip his quills like branches, and feels the snowflakes of the small flurry gently touch his face. His feet beat in effort against the invisible rival and kick up bucketfuls of snow as he passes through another town.

Christmas music and the jovial carols of small children fade behind him as he works his limbs to achieve the ultimatum. "C'mon, c'mon," he murmurs, his arms wrapped securely in front of him in protection.

Finally, a boom echoes, a frosty blue hue similar to the gentle snow radiates in front of the blue hedgehog, and he laughs. "Here I come!" he cheers, "They're not gonna wait forever for me!"

Snowflakes pelt his face at a rapid pace because of his intense speed, and the already-collected precipitation attempt to suck him in every time he places his foot down. But White Acropolis, this is not. And for that, Sonic is extremely glad.

The base had taken no more than two hours to successfully destroy and eliminate any kind of dangerous material or technology that had the potential of being hazardous. Funnily, though there were many rooms completely composed for the purpose of robot construction, the group found several Christmas decorations and even a well-placed evergreen decorated with traditional lights, ornaments, and all.

But what had creeped Sonic out the most was the small toy of the blue hedgehog he found in Eggman's own office laying there innocently and completely whole on his desk. He would've cracked a joke, but the whole thing seemed utterly eerie for him to make a comment at that point in time.

Sonic continues his journey across the gentle flurries of the mid-morning winter storm and easing, rolling white hills of the outskirts. Of course, Knuckles has returned to his island after the deed of eliminating the threat was completed, but there is a different posture about him that makes the blue hero wonder if things will ever be the same from him.

Rouge and Shadow have left as well- -back to G.U.N. to do assignments on Christmas Day, no doubt- -but before he left, the Ultimate Lifeform solemnly and subtly wished Sonic a 'Merry Christmas or whatever that meant', to which Sonic obviously had to tease about before receiving a punch to the face. Rouge couldn't stifle a laugh at that one.

Finally, Sonic spots traces of his destination and starts to pull into a complete stop in order to not zoom by the town. His heels haul up mounds of snow that fly into the wintry air as he sets out one foot to maintain his balance and cut the deceleration time short. Finally, he halts and allows his lime eyes to scan over the dancing children and snow to find his friend.

"Mmphonic!" a snowman calls among the new heaps of snow.

Sonic takes a step back in puzzlement, then chuckles, and brushes away the snow mound. "Sorry, lil' buddy," he mutters sheepishly, his voice a little over the sound of the Christmas bells, "Are you guys ready?"

Tails shakes out the chunks of snow from the five hoods belonging to his overcoats while he nods. "Yeah, just about. She was looking at something in one of the shops, I guess," he says.

"All right, that's good," Sonic says evenly. Then he flashes an eager smile to the two-tailed fox. "And guess what I have for you-!"

Tails opens his mouth in childlike astonishment as the blue hedgehog brandishes a long, fuzzy blue blanket from his arms. The eight-year-old sticks a humble gloved hand to stroke the sky blue item, never tearing his azure gaze from it. "Is this-"

"An electric blanket! And the best of its kind, I might add," Sonic declares with a widening grin, "So you'll never have to wear extra layers in the house anymore. Merry Christmas!" The blue hedgehog outstretches a curled fist for a noogie, but the fox envelopes him in a hug.

"Thanks, Sonic. For everything."

A small smile returns to the blue hedgehog. "No problem, lil' bro," he says sincerely, pulling away from the fox, "Now why doncha' put it on ya right now?"

Tails immediately complies, slowly draping the blanket over his back as if it is a royal robe. The fox meets Sonic's good-natured gaze but looks away in embarrassment.

"I had a present for you, too. It was supposed to be a standard insta-chilidog maker, but it kinda failed miserably, so..."

"Naw, I don't need a chilidog maker when I have you, man. But a way to heal my eye faster would be great," Sonic smirks, ruffling the fox's bangs, as the purple, swelled-up eye attempts to blink.

Silence fills the gap between the two as they listen to the joyous merriment of Christmas morning. Tails can't fight his grin any longer. "Who are you gonna give that other gift to, Sonic?" he asks vigorously.

The blue hero widens his lime eyes. He places a gloved hand behind his head and hides the gift inside his spines. " one in particular..." he trails stupidly as he watches the knowing sinister grin on the fox grow, "Look, lil' buddy, it's Christmas. Why wouldn't I give a present to Amy?"

"I dunno," Tails says slyly, "You said specifically that you didn't like her, that she was a crazy fangirl. And she was never gonna change."

Sonic groans at this and throws up a hand in resignation.

"Okay, okay, maybe I was wrong about her," he says with discomfiture. Silence. "Okay, I was wrong about her. Happy now?"

"Was there ever any doubt?" Tails counters, cackling arrogantly, to which the hedgehog grimaces and gives him a rough noogie just to remind him who's boss.

"Hey, Sonic, Tails! Merry Christmas!" calls a cheery pink hedgehog adorned in red and green habiliments. The light overcoat she is wearing reveals slight traces of her shoulder cast underneath; she still has to wear it for a couple more days and then will be cleared to take it off.

Tails sends her a huge smile, and Sonic lifts a hand in recognition but avoids her gaze, now embarrassed. The blue hedgehog backs away slowly, hearing the crunching of the snow he walks on, as the fox bounds over to Amy.

"Merry Christmas, Amy," the two-tailed fox says sweetly.

The girl smiles gently in response at Tails, and her jade orbs immediately light up at the sight of the blue hero. "Sonic, I have something for you," Amy says, her facial expressions failing at maintaining a poker face.

Sonic tilts his head in a forty-five degree angle into the brisk air, takes in a big whiff, and grins. "Say, is that...?"

"Merry Christmas, Sonic," she exclaims, presenting a monstrous chilidog, "I thought of how much you loved these and decided to experiment to see if I could make it even tastier."

Grasping the enormous chilidog and letting it weigh heavily down in his hands for a nanosecond, the blue hedgehog pops the treat in his mouth. Hot, spicy, and sweet spread throughout his taste buds as the ground-up food makes its way down his throat. Oh, how he loves chilidogs. The edges of his lips bumble up and down in work but slip apart in a stained, toothy grin. He shoves a thumbs-up in the air.

"And you succeeded!" he declares, watching her eyes glitter with a warmth that makes him a tad bit self-conscious. Out of nervousness and natural jitters, Sonic sticks a gloved hand behind his head and bears a happy face at her. "So, uh, how's that Le Cordon Bleu thing goin'?" he asks.

Amy grasps Sonic's hands excitedly, causing the blue hedgehog's face to flush uncomfortably and Tails to snicker. "I was accepted!" she announces, literally bouncing up and down in delight, "And on Christmas!"

His embarrassment morphs into an astonished smirk. "Really? That's way past cool!" Sonic says supportively.

She furiously nods and squeezes his gloved hands, showing only a sliver of her excitement. "Yeah, when I got it in the mail today, I was so happy! I told Cream and Vanilla and the Chaotix and now they're having a celebration for it. It'll be a Christmas culinary school acceptance celebration at the Rabbit house!" Amy cheers.

"Cool," he simply replies with a helpful smile.

"Would you two like to join?" she asks, her jade eyes alit with excitement, "It would be so much fun! There'll be cookies, cake, and everything Christmasy."

Sonic's ears flatten in realization, and he avoids Tails' persuasive ogle. Amy continues to stare, her eyes glowing with that same look that she had whenever she asked him on a date and he was still standing around. It seems...hesitant...and has slights flecks of failure deep inside those shades of jade.

He shakes his head as if to clear his thoughts, realizing he has been gaping at her. "Well, if you're not burdened by having us there..." he says, his hands slipping back to scratch behind his head.

"No, no, you wouldn't be a burden at all," she assures, "I wanted to Rouge to come, but she had some G.U.N. assignment to do, though she did wish me good luck. But it would really be amazing if you guys would come."

The pink hedgehog's jade-eyed expectancy towards her hero starts to make him sweat. It is as if he is the decision-maker, the one that chooses whether or not she will burst out in joy. His foot squishing repetitively in the snow, he opens his mouth and is surprised it isn't frozen shut by the cold.

"Sonic has something for you," Tails blurts out, receiving a fuming glare at once. The fox only gives him a cute smile, the little two-tailed rascal.

He shakes his head fervently at the sight of Amy's sparkling eyes and folded hands in more suspense.

Instantly, words of denial tumble out of his mouth. "Wha-naw, no, no-"


Sonic winces and glances behind him. Plopped in the snow is his hidden present, all decorated and finished off with a bright scarlet bow. His hand behind his head grasps his skull in a rebuking, death-like hold.

That's not mine, he wants to claim. Yeah, right.

"Uh, I guess that's mine," he says tartly, stiffly dusting snow powder off the package, "And I guess it's for you, Amy." The blue hero mechanically hands it to the receiver, averting his gaze from hers, all the while glaring at his smug little brother.

Carefully tearing the wrapping paper along the seams, Amy clutches the ripped-up paper in one fist and lets an open hand fall to reveal the object of Sonic's awkwardness. "A snow globe?" she asks, gazing at the wintry spectacle inside the spherical glass barrier.

Sonic can't even look at her. "Well, it's White Acropolis Zone. You always said how much you liked the ice and all that, and I thought, y'know, that you would want a memory of it somehow contained as a physical reminder. Or something like that, y'know," he says, trying to shut his mouth to prevent further hopeless ramblings. He falls short of that goal. "I dunno, but a snow globe may be kinda cheap an' all that for you. It kinda pales in comparison to the culinary arts school accepting you, but, y'know, this is a gift from me to you and I...I dunno; I think you're right, it does kinda-"

"I love it, Sonic!" Amy cries, sucking him into a warm bear hug, "Aw, this was so thoughtful of you! White Acropolis really was awesome to see. Thank you so much for this Christmas present!"

Sonic only offers a shaky laugh as he feels his ribs gradually being squeezed. Soon, she lets go and allows him to totter over to Tails, who gives him a wry smirk.

"A snow globe? Cheesiest gift ever," the fox drawls, sarcasm dripping in his voice.

"Y'know, I could take that electric blanket from you as easily as I gave it to you," Sonic remarks good-naturedly.

Tails clutches his blanket defensively. "Not my blanket!" cries the fox indignantly.

Amy walks over to the two; Sonic notices her stroking the snow globe in her arms as if it is a precious pet, much to the blue hero's amusement. "So, what do you have to say, Sonic?" she asks, her head tipping in curiosity.

The blue hero knows very well what she means-about the party, of course-but he can't help but apply it literally to the entire situation. What does he have to say?

His tongue rolls out of his mouth and slithers over the corners of his lips to pilfer the last remains of the chilidog. Should he really tell them about his plight with the chilidogs, the whole chaotic mess? None of his allies, not even his little brother, have had a clue of what he was suffering from in White Acropolis.

His gaze filters to Amy. Imagine what it will be like if he tells her she is the reason his whole world was turned upside down momentarily. That she is the reason that caused him to fight with every one of his allies and almost give up all hope entirely.

He shakes his spiky blue head in a minute manner and sighs unfalteringly. No, he will not tell them. The past is in the past. One thing he realizes for sure is that he was always clinging onto it in certain aspects of his life and that he was always afraid to let go, and he had denied that being true with staggering arrogance. That fact was holding him back immensely, and Sonic is grateful that his chains of the past are finally broken, that he can finally move forward without being dragged down by past worries and concerns and self-doubts.

No, he won't tell them. But that doesn't mean he isn't entirely grateful for the two standing inquisitively in front of them. They are the two who had pulled him out of one of the deepest abysses he has ever faced, the abyss of his own pitfalls.

Now, the future is out there for him to chase after and make himself better for. A future bright along with his friends.

He chuckles. "Yeah, sounds like a party to be!" Sonic declares, noticing Amy's jade eyes waver from hesitant optimism to full-blown hope, a peculiar sight he has never quite seen before. This confident look on his good.

He thrusts a lanky tan arm around Tails' frame. "You ready to eat some cake, buddy?" he asks, receiving a fervent nod.

"Am I ever!" Tails says dreamily. Then, twirling his tails and pushing off across the powdery snow, he exclaims, "To Cream's house we go!"

Sonic chuckles at the eight-year-old and his billowing blanket, making the fox almost look like a caped hero. "Say, Amy, you ready to go?" he says with a growing smile.

"Yeah, I think I- -woah!" the pink hedgehog cries as she is lifted off the ground and carried bridal-style by none other than her blue hero himself.

"Cool," is his simple reply, and he blows by Tails in a burst of speed, calling, "Race ya!"

"You're on!"

Sonic kicks his legs back, achieving higher velocity quickly, as he leaves the Christmas carols and merry morning cheer behind in the town. He lets Tails stay neck-and-neck with him, even though the fox struggles to gain more speed against the ten-foot wide wall of clothes around him.

Amy snuggles into the tan chest of her hero, beaming unbelievably. And what does Sonic do?

He takes it all with a smile, ready to face any challenges, problems, evil madmen, or whatever's flung at him in life. He knows now what it is like to truly be free.

Wow, my first ever chapter story finished on this site...that took a lot of work.

Okay, let me just give a big thank you to all those who reviewed, followed, and favorited my entire story; I know I stopped formally giving out thanks at the beginning of each chapter, but I never stopped truly feeling grateful for each and every one of them. Thanks to the people who loyally reviewed every chapter, the people who gave me good advice on how to improve, the people who continued to give support and encouragement, and the people who even jumped into reviewing in the middle/end of the story.

I'm sincerely grateful. Without you guys, this probably would've been updated extremely slow and ultimately forgotten about. Hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it, and maybe I'll see you guys soon!