By: Maraja Sargasso

(Set during the events of Sonic 06)

Shadow's POV

I skated through the once beautiful streets of Soleana in a crimson flash. The city was encased in flames, their fierce light reflecting off the canals as I raced past. Mephiles had joined with Iblis, becoming the Solaris creature, and for the first time in Mobius' history, we had failed to defeat it. Sonic had been killed, and Elise's kiss was not enough to revive him. Even with the power of the seven chaos emeralds, it seemed that it was not enough to bring him back, and dare I say, he couldn't have picked a worse time to die. I didn't think I would be able to defeat Solaris on my own. But though the world was literally on fire, there was one thing that cut me far more deeply. Mephiles was right...

When he had shown me the vision of my imprisonment, I didn't believe him. I worked with the humans of the world, and I thought I had earned their trust. I could not have been more mistaken in my life. With the world heading into its apocalyptic state, I had forgotten about GUN and what they might have been thinking at the time. I had no idea that they still held me in total distrust, even after I had proved my loyalty to them countless times, and they had only been waiting for the right moment to turn on me. Now here I was, the Ultimate Lifeform, running for my life from the people I was created to protect and swore to make happy.

I ducked into an alleyway and scowled at the reddening sky, bringing back memories of the Black Arms invasion only two years ago. I then realized that it was since that day the first aliens touched the Earth' s surface, that the Commander had actively sought out a chance to destroy me. GUN had waited for this very moment to strike, and they put up a persuasive argument. With the media on their side, they wrote that I was the cause of this chaos, and a small part of me believed them. It was my fault Mephiles was unleashed when I failed to retrieve the Scepter of Darkness when it fell, deciding rather to catch my falling partner. I don't why I overreacted when Rouge had been knocked out of the air by the doctor's machine. She had taken far worse hits and was able to manage. But it was that one choice that has now altered the very future Silver had worked so hard to restore. It was no wonder the public has turned against me.

I hated it when Mephiles was proved right! He was my problem. I released him. I put a bounty on my head when I travelled to the past to seal him into the Scepter, which would make him wish vengeance on me for years. He literally stole my shadow, and now many of the world's citizens have confused the two of us. Is this how Sonic felt when I first came on the scene? Wreaking havoc of my own? I growled and punched the brick wall behind me out of reflex. No wonder the people of Earth despised me. I may be a redeemed villain, but I will never truly be the hero.

"Hey! I think heard something! He might've gone this way!" Captain Andrews yelled. I detested him even before this happened. He was always the stuck-up little pinhead that I really would like to "spar" a couple of rounds with, but I had no time. The GUN squadron would be here any second.

The end of the alley was a dead end, and running back into the streets would only alert them to my location. There weren't many options left.

Even if the whole world turns against me, I will fight like I always have...

Ha, that had been my reply to Mephiles' prophesy, that I would fight for the good of the world whether they wished it or not. I briefly glanced down at my reflection in small puddle that somehow had yet to evaporate. My charcoal appearance matched the desolate landscape perfectly. I breathed a deep sigh as I thought about what I had to do.

"Maria, forgive me, and give me strength," I whispered before I skated out of the alley.

The band of humans had no chance to react as I disabled them and knocked them unconscious. The world would never pardon me if I killed them. My eyes suddenly locked with a pair of familiar, hazel orbs, and I paused. She was the last one standing. I was desperately hoping I could still trust her enough to get the one crucial piece of information I needed.

"Topaz?" I questioned slowly. She blinked in recognition and lowered her firearm, only slightly, her eyes glancing down at her fallen comrades.

"Shadow?"

"Listen, regardless of what the Commander or anyone else has told you, I am not your enemy," I began quickly, "I know things look bad right now, but I am doing my best to fix them. But there is something I need to know first."

"What is it?" she asked cautiously, which was understandable. I still can't believe the words that flew out of my mouth.

"Where is Rouge and Omega? We were separated when Solaris appeared. I need to know they are safe," I asked, grateful my voice hadn't become a pleading one. But something didn't feel right. Topaz avoided eye contact and bit her lip. Whatever I was about to hear, I knew I wouldn't like it.

"I'm so sorry, Shadow. When the GUN units arrived to find you, Rouge resisted. She refused to give your whereabouts and wouldn't join the manhunt. Some of the recruits tried to force her to, and then a fight broke out. A lot of our men went down, alive but out cold. But Rouge...," her eyes began to become glossy, and she blinked away tears. My heart sank, and I feared the worst, as she continued, "She was shot. She was still alive and was taken by some of the soldiers to receive medical attention. I won't lie to you, Shadow, it looks pretty bad."

I felt myself freeze as the world around me began to slow down. Rouge was...shot? Where? How critical was she? Will she live? She promised to always stand by me, and she kept her word, but at what cost? I would have rather she betrayed me as well instead of possibly loosing her life for me. I couldn't take it. The only person I could ever have called my friend that lived in this time period was shot, just like...my blood suddenly turned to ice, even though the world around was going up in smoke. Rouge had been shot, just like Maria. She was shot trying to protect me from GUN, just like my charge and human bond-sister. How many more must die for my sake!? I was never worth a price so high as the life of another!

"Shadow? Shadow, are you okay?" Topaz's gentle voice snapped me out of my downward spiral. It took a few seconds to realize that unshed tears had severely clouded my vision, and my balance was becoming slightly unsteady.

"Oh, Shadow...," the human agent said tearfully and holstered her gun before wrapping her arms me. I normally hated physical contact from anyone, but I didn't want to refuse her. This may be the last act of kindness I will receive for a very long time. I closed my eyes tried to reel my emotions back in check. I still had a mission to do: escape GUN, defeat Mephiles and ultimately Solaris or vice versa, and avenge Rouge before eventually proving my innocence and taking a very long vacation with the rest of Team Dark.

"Take me to her," I ordered lowly, and she parted long enough for me to see her shocked expression.

"You can't be serious. She may be injured, but she is also under GUN custody. If you walk into that hospital room, there's a high chance you won't be coming out."

"She is partner and my friend, and she risked her own well being to ensure mine. I owe her a debt I could never repay. She deserves to know that I will stand by her just as she did me. I don't know know whether or not the fate of the world is still in my hands, but I know I can save her."

Topaz stared long and hard before nodding solemnly, almost as if she was reluctant to do so. She sighed and led me down several streets until we reached a now mostly destroyed hospital that was swarming with soldiers. As soon as their eyes landed on me, their weapons locked on my position, and I paused midstep. Would they allow me entry, or will I have to use an alternate method go get inside? To my relief, Topaz flashed her badge before safely guiding me inside. The building was filled with people with varying degrees of injury, and I vaguely wondered how many would survive this apocalypse.

The female agent led me past the general infirmary and down a long hallway. After only a few minutes, I was certain I was completely lost, but to my relief, we stopped in front of a semi-stable door. Two guards stood at either side of it with their weapons armed and I assumed loaded, as they lifted them to point directly at my face. I returned this action with an annoyed glare. After all that I have been through today, they couldn't scare me if they tried. However, before I could prove it to them, Topaz pressed her hand on my shoulder and looked expectantly in their direction. They nodded and stepped back.

"Would you like me to go with you?" she asked, and I shook my head.

"No, thank you," I replied slowly. She gave me a brief smile and turned to leave.

"Wait!" I called as I grabbed her hand. She paused and looked down to me patiently, "Thank you...for everything."

Her smile brightened, "No problem, Shadow. I hope we see each other again."

I nodded and left it at that as my hand traveled to the door handle. I slipped inside as soon as Topaz left, and I stopped midway through the door. Rouge, my partner, my friend, my companion, was lying on a worn hospital bed attached to a monitor and other life support systems that I couldn't decipher. She was sleeping peacefully for the first time since this mission started, and I couldn't believe that she was here, possibly dying because of her loyalty to me. Her teal eyes slowly flickered open and trained on me. She smiled weakly, but I could see she was in more pain than she was showing.

"Hey, handsome, what are you doing here?" she coughed. I was by her side in an instant. Her hand reached for mine, and I clasped it gently. Though it broke the persona I had established, I gave her a small genuine smile.

"I couldn't just leave my partner behind."

She appeared touched by my statement but also sad, "Shadow, hon, I think this will be our last adventure together."

"Don't say that. I need you to be strong for me, Rouge. I can't lose you too," I was shocked at how desperate I sounded, but it was true. She squeezed my hand a little tighter, and I could feel the chaos energy leaving her.

"You need to get out of here, honey. They'll take you, if you don't," she said in a low whisper. I frowned and glared ahead of me for a few seconds.

"Let them come. I will die before I stop fighting."

"But what will you be fighting for?" she argued weakly, "Vengeance for me? Shadow, I don't want you to go back down that path. Remember what you told Mephiles? Even if the whole world goes against you-"

"I will fight like I always have," I finished with a reserved and slightly defeated sigh. She laughed a little at that.

"See? If you are going to fight, do it for your promise. The world needs you now more than ever. Don't be the monster GUN thinks you are..."

I looked away, my inner walls breaking even further than I thought possible. But she was right, as always.

"Shadow..., hon, look at me," she said slowly as she lifted her hand and titled my face in her direction. At least she was still smiling.

"I did this of my own free choice. No one made me take the hit."

"But that doesn't mean you should have!" I snapped harder than I meant to. I was inwardly grateful that she wasn't fazed by my outburst.

"Maybe, but that's what partners do, right?"

A surprised gasp was all I heard as I wrapped her in tight, but gentle, hug. I didn't even realize I had been sitting on her bedside, but I didn't care. I could feel the bandages wrapped around her and her unsteady breathing. I couldn't lose her, not now. She rested her head against my chest as she returned the gesture, albeit fraily.

"I always knew you had a soft side, Shady," she said, and I could hear her smile.

"Only for you, toots," I replied, using her old pet name. When she didn't reply, I pulled away to find that she had fallen asleep. I gently leaned her back into her pillows, detaching myself as I did so. I climbed off the bed and steered myself to the window. With one last look at her still form, I offered a tiny grin.

"Farewell, partner. I will come back. I promise," I said as I disappeared out of the window. But I could have sworn that I heard her say,

"See you soon, handsome. You still owe me dinner after this..."

I smirked as my eyes stared into the fire, pinpointing Solaris through the smoke. That was Rouge, always assuming a favor. When this is over, I will definitely be taking her somewhere nice. Casinopolis maybe? I heard there were some nice restaurants down there. She'd fuss over it, but I doubt I will care that much. Afterall, that's what partners are for, right?

Author's Note: I feel like I have a lot of Shadow fanfiction, but come on. He's an awesome character. And I'm not sure if this is romantic Shadouge or just friendship, so I'm leaving it up for interpretation.