A/N: Lemme apologize right now for the time travel explanation at the end. Just think of it as technobabble, say 'I hate time travel' and we'll all get past it that much quicker. Oi....
And in the not too distant future, Shady appears in the right timeline and looks out at the highway in time to see Sonic run by with a present under one arm. Angie blinked and looked up at a clock.
"Shady! We've got ten minutes to get him away from the freeway!" the Angel Chao declared. Shady nodded and held out the Chaos Emerald.
"Chaos Speed Time!" he declared and was instantly infused with super-speed, "I'll meet you later, Angie!" With that, Shady raced off, a black and red blur zooming down the street after Sonic.
The blue hedgehog was making good time on the northbound freeway. Sonic was sure he'd be in time to help Shadow set up the party. He looked down at the gift for the umpteenth time. He still couldn't believe his good luck. Sonic had found another Chaos Emerald, a blue one, and knew it was perfect for Shady. The tiny hedgehog was practicing Chaos Control with Rouge's fake Emerald, but soon he'd have his very own real Emerald to work with. Sonic stifled a snicker. And he couldn't wait to see the look on Shadow's face when he found out Sonic got Shady a real Chaos Emerald! Shady was such a great kid, tagging along with Tails to learn as much as he could from the fox, adoring Sonic like he was some kind of idol and generally liking everyone he met. A little on the weird side, but that he got from his dad. Shadow had always been a little strange when he was a kid, he admitted to that, and ARK's archive tapes proved it.
"This is gonna be the best birthday party ever!" Sonic exclaimed, "And I'm gonna make my super special chili dogs! Shady's gonna love it!" He looked up at the overhead sign and grinned. "All right! In another couple of minutes, I'll come to the exit so I can get to Shadow's house!" he declared just as he noticed a black blur out of the corner of his eye. "Huh? What's that?" The blur rammed him and threw him off the highway into a small café.
"Ow! Hey! What was that all about?!" Sonic yelled angrily, picking himself up and glaring at the figure before him. Shady stood there, breathing hard and fast.
"Sorry about that, Sonic! But I can't let you get to that exit just yet!" he yelled. Sonic growled angrily.
"I get it! You're after my Emerald! Fat chance, pal! You may look like Shadow, but that fake black hedgehog getup doesn't fool me! You're a thief!" he snapped and used a Homing Attack. Shady leaped out of the way and kicked out at him, a sweeping move that knocked Sonic's feet out from under him and dropped him onto his back. "OW!"
"You've got one minute to time breach!" Angie cried out as he flew onto the scene, "Oh! You found Sonic!"
"Thanks for the update! Give me one more minute and then we're gone!" Shady called back and dodged another Homing Attack, "Geez! Why didn't Dad warn me about Sonic's attacks?! He's gonna bash my head in!"
"Thirty seconds!" Angie cried again. Shady jumped back from Sonic and held out his hands.
"This is for your own good, Sonic! Believe me, you're going to thank me for this later!" he exclaimed.
"You're making me late for a very important party, pal! And I hate to be late! It's way past uncool!" Sonic snapped, "Especially when my brother's setting it up!"
"Five minutes won't make much difference to Shadow! As long as you show up before anyone else does, he'll be okay with it!" Shady yelled.
"How did you know about Shadow?! Are you a G.U.N. agent?!" Sonic snapped and jumped to use a Bounce Attack.
"Ten seconds!" Angie cried as Shady moved to avoid the hit. Sonic kept bouncing around. "Nine!"
"Stop it! I'm not your enemy!" Shady cried.
"You're not getting Shadow or Cammy! And you're definitely not taking Shady away either! They're not your guinea pigs!" Sonic shrieked.
"I'm not from any G.U.N. thing! I don't even know what that is!" Shady exclaimed and rolled away from another Bounce Attack.
Shady activated the Pick Claws and burrowed underground to escape another attack, then popped up behind Sonic. He kicked him across and back into the café.
"You're asking for a beating, buster! Get out of my way!" Sonic yelled, storming out of the building, the present still under one arm.
"You're almost cleared, Sonic! Just don't do anything crazy!" Shady exclaimed.
"Whaddya mean 'cleared'?! I don't need your permission to go to a party! Get outta here!" Sonic snapped.
"Live and learn, Sonic! You're going to thank me for this one day! Remember it!" Shady shouted as Sonic blinked in surprise, recognizing the phrase.
"One! Time breached! The future will be changed now! Let's go!" Angie declared and flew away. Shady nodded and jumped up onto a rooftop, then sped away, following him. Sonic blinked and watched them vanish into a sudden burst of light.
"That was crazy." he muttered and headed on to the exit. On the way, he saw a traffic wreck that was quickly being put under control. The area was already being sealed off. He could see spikes and blades scattered around the place and embedded in buildings, cars and trees. He swallowed hard. If he had come through here any sooner, he could have been....
Sonic suddenly gasped and thought back to the strange black hedgehog. That's what he was doing! He was stalling Sonic so he wouldn't get caught in the accident! But, how did he know Sonic would be taking this street, or about the accident happening? He didn't know, but mentally, he thanked the stranger. Sonic was still alive and would make it to the party a little late, but at least in one piece. He frowned. Funny, that hedgehog actually looked a little familiar. He reminded him of Shadow, but slightly different. Shrugging it off, he raced up to Shadow's house and found the black hedgehog impatiently waiting for him at the front steps.
"Took you long enough. You can help me get the banner up." Shadow told him.
"Sorry. I was attacked by a weird black hedgehog who looked kinda like you." Sonic replied.
"Black hedgehog like me?" Shadow echoed in surprise, "But that can't be. The only black hedgehogs on earth are me and Shady, and he's just a little kid. I've been here all day, hanging up streamers and setting up the party."
"I know. But, the really weird thing is, he wasn't really trying to hurt me. He acted like he was trying to keep me off the road for a couple of minutes. And on the way here, there was a major wreck." Sonic replied, "I mean, kick the bucket major. If I had gotten caught in it, I'd have been sliced six ways from Sunday."
"You're saying this mystery hedgehog stalled you long enough to keep you from getting into a fatal accident?" Shadow asked incredulously, pausing long enough to give him a look. Sonic shrugged and shook his head in a who-knows gesture. "Sonic, you're being a bit too strange today. Forget about it and hold the ladder steady." the ultimate life form muttered, "I'm not about to get the floor recarpeted just because ten of my quills got stuck in it from falling off the stupid ladder. It's expensive."
"All right. But I'm telling you, that guy looked familiar. I mean, I swear he had Shady's Pick Claws and green eyes. He had that lightning bolt stripe all right." Sonic said as he looked up at his friend.
"You were imagining things. Are you sure you didn't bump your head or anything before coming here?" Shadow retorted, "Shady's taking a nap in the playroom. He's been in there all day with that other kid, Norman or Norwick or whatever he's called."
"Norbert? Vanni's kid?" Sonic corrected him.
"Yeah. The one who stared at me and acted like his eyeballs were glued to my face, then asked me if I was ever in prison." Shadow grumbled.
"Then who was that weird hedgehog with the Angel Chao?" Sonic wondered aloud.
"Don't know and don't care. Hold the stupid ladder steady, the stupid banner's crooked." Shadow muttered and that was the end of the conversation about the future Shady.
In the not so distant future, a few months after Shady's fifth birthday, Shady returned to his time and used his Chaos powers to return to his five-year-old state. He looked around at the cave he had once called home, then went outside with Angie hovering along behind him.
"Where is your mom? What happened to the cave?" he asked the little hedgehog. Shady shrugged and opened his pouch, pulling out the letter he had found in his room the day Shadow had died. All he found was a blank sheet of paper and a blank envelope.
"Hey, the letter's gone. Daddy didn't write it to me." Shady said in surprise. Suddenly, he heard voices calling his name, voices he knew so well.
"Shady! Shady, where are you?!" came his mother's voice.
"Shady! Can you hear us?! Answer us!" came the achingly familiar voice of Shadow the Hedgehog.
"Tails! Can't you see him anywhere?!" Sonic's voice griped. Overhead Tails, Knuckles, and Rouge were soaring, searching from above to find him. Tails spotted Shady first.
"There he is! Shady! Is this where you've been for the last three hours? Did you forget how to focus your Chaos Control again?" the fox called out. Rouge and Knuckles came to a landing beside him as Tails flew off to lead the other hedgehogs to him.
"Shady! We were all worried about you! Your mom and dad were going nuts looking for you!" Knuckles exclaimed in relief.
"Are you okay? Are you hurt anywhere?" Rouge asked, checking him over for injuries.
"I'm okay." Shady replied and hugged them both, "I'm so happy to see you! I thought you were all gone! I thought I'd never see you again!"
"We'll always be here for you, Shady. Count on it!" Knuckles promised, "We'll never leave you all alone!" Sonic and the others zipped up to them just then and Shady was back in the arms of both his mother and father.
"Mommy! Daddy! I did it! I'm back! I saved everybody!" he laughed and snuggled into Shadow's arms, tired from the warping and using up his powers, "But now, I'm tired and sleepy. I want a nap and something to eat. Daddy, can I have a chili dog? Right after my nap?"
"You can have anything you want, Shady." Shadow murmured softly, resting his cheek on the little toddler's head.
"Okay." Shady mumbled, "Then I want Sonic to not be mad that I kicked him a lot when he was coming to my birthday party. I didn't want him to be in an accident." With that, Shady dozed off and slept peacefully in his father's embrace. Sonic and Shadow both blinked at him in surprise.
"You don't think that, back at the party, the guy I told you attacked me, was really Shady? Do you?" Sonic stammered. Shadow could only shrug helplessly.
"Rouge said something about Shady doing something weird with her fake Emerald, but then she said there would be small gaps in her memory. She doesn't really remember what it is he does with it. Maybe his secret experiments had something to do with that mystery hedgehog." he replied quietly.
"But how could Shady be in two places at once? And have one of the two be a teenager?" Sonic asked.
"One of his powers is time warping. Maybe he was traveling through time all along." Shadow replied, "He warped here during our picnic, but he had looked a little out of it. He was gone for three hours before our Emeralds picked him back up here. Now he's normal again."
"Maybe he had been living in an alternate timeline and changed history so he could get to the right one." Cammy theorized, "After all, it was at about two o'clock on his birthday that he had sort of glazed over and stopped responding to Sonic. Then he quit answering to everyone but me up over the past few months. My guess is an alternate Shady suffered a trauma that was generated in our Shady. So the two Shadys warped at the same time in the same place to do something about it. During the warp, the two Shadys fused, ending up with a Shady with the future of this time but the past of the other." Sonic zoned out and Shadow cocked his head to try to understand her. "Somehow, the unified Shady did something to the past to fuse both timelines together and thus revive the real Shady. That's why Shady has memories of something that never happened to us, those are the memories of the alternate Shady."
"Okay, let me see if I got it straight." Shadow muttered, "You're saying there were two Shadys, ours who is the true Shady, and some other one in an alternate timeline with a different past and future. The other Shady was created at two o'clock on Shady's fifth birthday. Why that time? What's special about it?"
"At one fifty-nine that day, there was a major accident on the northbound freeway." Cammy replied, "They talked about it on the news. At exactly two o'clock, a bunch of those blades passed through a taxi taking the northbound exit to this street. There were witnesses who noted the time."
"I was going to take that exit. At my speed, I would have been next to that taxi at the same time the blades hit." Sonic put in, finally coming around once things were being simplified for him and Shadow.
"Then Alternate Shady was created when the timeline split into two possibilities; one where Sonic wound up late and missed the accident...." Shadow started to say.
"Because that crazy hedgehog attacked me." Sonic butted in.
"Which gave us our Shady, the true Shady, and the other one where Sonic was on schedule and was caught between the blades and the taxi." Shadow finished quietly, "An instant death."
"The alternate Shady must have been really hurt by the alternate Sonic's death and it echoed in our Shady. For some reason, he waited four months as this walking zombie before warping into time." Cammy went on.
"Other terrible things were happening with the other Shady during that time. The other Shady must have been waiting for an opportunity to change history." Shadow was beginning to realize, "His plan echoed in our Shady and the two of them warped here at the exact same time to go back to where the two of them split apart. That's why Shady was acting strange, half of him was living a different life and he needed to get his other half back. The only way to do it was to change what had happened to Sonic."
"When they reached the point at which the split up occurred, they were fused together into the real Shady, but with two sets of memories, one belonging to our Shady, the other belonging to his other half." Cammy agreed, "He couldn't return home because the two halves would split apart again at the focal point in time where the lines split, two o'clock on his birthday, if he tried to go forward in time. Shady had to join the two timelines together and make them whole again so he could return to the future, which is now."
"So it really was Shady who attacked me?" Sonic muttered, "But he was a teenager!"
"I guess he learned how to speed up time on himself, too. Make himself age faster or grow younger." Cammy shrugged, "He chose to be older to have the strength to stall you."
"On his birthday, the fused Shady kept me from getting to the exit on time and that joined the timelines?" Sonic asked, getting confused again.
"No, they attacked the alternate Sonic. Sometime before two in the alternate time, they split up again, this time to have one teen Shady attack you while the other continued on the other Sonic. That way, both Sonics would remember being attacked and then being late. That fused the timelines." Cammy explained, "You were the focal point of the two times and when the two of you wound up with the same memories and the same circumstances, time fused to give you the same future. This one. The two Shadys fused again to match it, this time a permanent one. Shady will always have the memories of the alternate history, but now, he will have a much better future."
"Well, all this time talk is making my head hurt. Let's go home and catch some z's." Sonic muttered, "Alternate Sonics and teenager five-year-olds... crazy world we live in." Shadow watched him stomp away and smiled at Shady. The little hedgehog slept on, peaceful and happy.
"What an adventure you must have had, little Shadow." he murmured, "I guess you could say this was your journey. Your journey to save a life, and our futures." Shady slept on.