Disclaimer: Not mine. The End.

Knowledge of both the Knuckles and Sonic comics are essential to understanding this story.

Comments are always welcome.

Leaving's Never Easy

By, Nicole Silverwolf

"It's easier to leave than to be left behind (it's pulling me apart)

Leaving was never my proud (change)

Leaving New York, never easy (it's pulling me apart)

I saw the light fading out

You find it in your heart, it's pulling me apart

You find it in your heart, change..."

-excerpt from 'Leaving New York' by R.E.M.

The whole of Knothole was bathed in grayish blue, only the brightest colors standing out so that they could be seen. Like the colorful beads that lined all of Athair's considerable dreads. Tails remembered looking at his shoes and realizing that the stripe on them was a brilliant red he had never really appreciated until that moment. Pre dawn chill made his breath coil like smoke around him, and as he shifted the pack on his back, the sound of the materials rubbing together seemed very loud to his sensitive ears.

Or maybe he was just being paranoid.

The twelve year old looked a bit reluctant as he stood outside his doorstep next to the ancient echidna. It was weird, to suddenly compare this to the last early morning he had stood outside his hut's door.

Ironic that it was another echidna who had stood with him, a younger one that he considered a friend and ally. Knuckles had sought him out before heading home to the Floating Island from Albion. To tell him that his great grandfather Athair was gone—-for good he assumed. Why else would he have abandoned his beloved tribe in its greatest hour of need to a ungrateful great grandson...someone who believed very little in Faith of any sort.

Tails remembered him standing on the dusty path, half on the grass, and fiddling with a stone in his hand. He had tried to sound detached about it...and had failed miserably. Knuckles had openly claimed to dislike the only member of his family who had forsaken their long-standing tradition of Guardianship. But Tails could tell, somewhere on his journey--before they had met in the forest and at the castle--that Knuckles had learned a great deal about the strange echidna who had become something of a guide for Tails.

"He's not gone Knuckles," Tails remembered telling him. "I can tell."

"Really kiddo? You psychic or something?" He had responded. It was supposed to be a teasing joke, but the near warble of real grief ruined the effect.

"No, I just know he'll come back. He's not done yet." He remembered the confidence he had responded with. Athair wouldn't just leave. He somehow knew it so deeply that it was impossible to deny. Like the Ancient Walkers had told him. Maybe they had.

Knuckles had smiled, almost like he was going to deny his simple faith, but didn't say anything. He'd left soon after, just as the sun cleared the trees and spilled over their home. Tails wondered at the time, why he hadn't stayed to talk to Aunt Sally or to Sonic even.

He could see the bare beginnings of the sunrise at the edge of the mountains far west of Knothole.

Why did this feel so much less confident a move...though he had more proof in front of him than he had that morning with the Guardian on his doorstep?

Athair was gentle as he spoke and Tails knew it was for his benefit.

"You don't have to leave now Tails. I can return. The Walkers understand your anxiety, and they understand you might not be ready. It's alright to say no," and here his voice became a bit teasing, "I will not be offended."

His bright blue eyes scrunched close in indecision. It was a tempting offer.

A very tempting offer. To stay here with Sonic and Aunt Sally, Aunt Bunny and everyone else.

He had a good life.

Despite Robotnik and all that came with being a Freedom Fighter.

Maybe that was why he was so hesitant to leave it all behind. And he knew he was kidding himself too. They didn't believe in Super Tails. Didn't think of him other than the youngest Freedom Fighter.

Not really.

Sonic in his hyper form...was a destined hero who could not die. Same with Knuckles. But him...well no one really knew what he could do, or had done against Mogul. And it had been exhilarating, being so close to the Walkers, hearing them--understanding--them. It was what he was meant to do...he knew it in that instant.

So why was it so hard to leave now?

A long moment passed, a chill wind blowing in steady but erratic spurts and whistling in his ears. He watched the sky grow lighter, nearer to the color of what others said his eyes were. There was no other sound or movement, and he tried to listen, for the quiet voice always in the back of his head. It was there, and confirmed all that Athair had just said and then some.

His smile, when it came, was at peace in a way that looked out of place on a twelve year old. He had written his letters to the others, and he would be back.

"No. It's alright Athair. I'm ready to go."

The old echidna smiled wisely and gestured to the dirt path leading away from his hut and to the edge of Knothole. And with no more fanfare than that, Tails strode down the steps and away from his once home. The Chosen One scrunched his eyebrows in thought for a moment before asking an honest question.

"They won't forget about me?"

"I don't think that could ever be possible." There was real affection in that statement that warmed him from the inside out.

"Did you ever regret your decision Athair?"

His honesty was clear in his response. "I still regret it at times. But, I have found that my regret is nothing in comparison to the things I have done, and the people that I have helped along the way. That makes up for the days I miss my family, my tribe, my grandchildren."

"Do you think it'll be the same for me?"

"Perhaps Tails. But until then, I would advise you to enjoy the moment. It is far more precious than the regret."

Tails nodded in a sage way, until a mocking gleam entered his eyes. "Yes master." He bowed as they walked in an overly theatrical manner.

It was amazing how fast the cane whipped down and clocked him on the head. "None of that grasshopper."

"OW!" He responded as he rubbed the bump on his head. But it took only a moment for a smile to spread on his face.

He jogged ahead to catch up to the surprisingly spry echidna.


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