Sonic trudged through the Mystic Ruins jungle, a limp making his walk uneven. The trail's damp dirt squished beneath his feet and stuck to his shoes. He stared ahead, one of his eyes starting to swell up with a bruise. He was thinking more than he was seeing. The sun was moving lower in the sky above him, in the afternoon but still with some hours until sunset. His quills drooped with water and dripped as he went. Ordinarily he'd be running, or at least enjoying the lush greenery around him.
But he'd had a bad day. A painful, wet, humiliating day. It had gone on so long, he'd slid from anger at it to just beaten down and tired. Now all he wanted was for the sun to set so it would finally be over.
Sonic turned the corner, to another section of the dense undergrowth. The river flowed alongside the trail here. He left the trail, and followed along the winding water. Only along it, not in. No more wet today.
He was here for some company.
Another corner. The river widened and deepened into a round pool, a makeshift wooden hut and dock standing in it on stilts.
Big the cat sat there, staring at the water with his fishing pole. He looked up with his usual vacant expression, and waved. "Hello." Froggy was on his head, and croaked with protest when the cat moved.
Sonic waved back, the ghost of a smile on his face. "Hey, Big." He tried to sound like himself, and only partially succeeded. He stepped forwards. "S'it cool if I sit by you for a bit?"
Big nodded genially. "Sure," he said, in the slow, friendly manner typical of him, "I don't mind."
Sonic made it to the pool's edge, hesitated, and hopped to reach the dock. His foot slipped on its edge instead of making it, "Gah!" and he fell backwards towards the horrible pool of water.
Big thrust out one arm behind him. Its warm mass caught the hedgehog's whole tiny body.
"Whoops," Big gently nudged Sonic up onto dry land. "I gotcha."
"Ack…" He really should have been able to make that jump. Big wasn't the type to rub it in, though. Helped a bit.
Sonic took a deep breath, and said, "Thanks, bud." He sat down at Big's side, letting his short legs dangle off the dock's edge. "It's been like that all day."
"Huh…really?" Big returned his arm to his fishing pole, and tilted his head. "I'm sorry. That's too bad."
Sonic nodded, looking down in the water. "Yeah."
"Hm." Big thought for a second. "Do you wanna hug? Hugs are nice."
"I do." Sonic leaned towards him. "Hugs are nice."
Big let one hand off the fishing pole again, and curled his big soft arm around Sonic. The hedgehog let himself be nestled into Big's fur, and relaxed. It was like being hugged by a fuzzy warm beanbag chair.
They stayed like that for a while, neither Sonic or Big speaking. The jungle itself was obligingly peaceful and quiet with them. Except Froggy, who croaked once in awhile. The frog wasn't loud enough to stop Sonic from drifting off to sleep.
The sky was starting to turn orange when Sonic stirred. Big, in his supreme fisherman's patience, had stayed in the same position the entire time. The bruise on Sonic's eye was darker now, though his bad leg had stopped hurting. But that wasn't what he noticed. Now that he thought about it, the clear stream Big was fishing in seemed clear of anything to catch too.
"Hey, uh, Big." Sonic shifted against him to be more upright. "Do you ever catch any fish here?" During the whole business with Chaos, with him and his friends tromping through every hour, he'd seen none here at all. It was the same today. "The river looks…kinda empty."
"Just sometimes." Big made a content-sounding purr. "But it's ok. I don't have to catch fish every day to be happy."
Sonic thought that statement over for a moment, and then chuckled. Of course. Not how he personally would word it, but it was a good thing to remember. "I think I understand," he said. "There's always tomorrow, right?"
Big nodded. Froggy clung to his head to stay stable. "Uh-huh. Always tomorrow."
Sonic was only still a moment more.
"I think I'm good now, big guy." His voice had his usual spirit again. "Can you let me go?"
Big started to remove his arm, but, impatient, Sonic wiggled out on his own. He hopped to his feet on the dock and stretched, on tiptoe and arms in the air.
"Are you going home?" Big asked, unsure.
He let down his arms and knelt to stretch his legs. "Something like that, yeah." He could and did sleep pretty much anywhere, so long as it wasn't wet or on fire. 'Home' was relative. Sonic stood up straight, done stretching. "Thanks for having me over."
"Oh, you're welcome." Big said, sounding pleased. His ears wiggled slightly. "Any time, friend."
Sonic gave him a thumbs up, then waved goodbye. He then turned, went enough regular steps away that the wind wouldn't blow away Big's hut, and then took off running.
Wherever he went, his smile was restored. Can't wait to see what tomorrow brings.