Author's note: Don't let italics frighten you. They inherit the function of horizontal separators. Suggestions welcome.

Disclaimer: none of the characters that appear in this story belong to me, but to their respectful owners: SEGA and Sonic Team.

Gloom Keep

Chapter 1: Captured by Joy

It was the second day of Sonic's forced vacation in Germany: a small trip, during which Amy agreed not to whine about hugs.

Amy had finally cornered her Romeo in a dead end street of Istambul, Turkey. High noon, nobody around. There was no one that could help Sonic out of his predicament this time, not even his best friend, Tails. There was no place to hide; the ancient buildings looked too hard for his head to crack. Three huge walls enclosed him, leaving only a narrow passage for the friendly enemy, who was gaining on him. Sonic gulped, jumping from one edge of the alley to another, looking for a way to dodge the rosy menace.

The pink hedgehog soon came with a wide smile and happiness all over her face, "So, are you going to date me now?" she asked giddily.

"No…" her reluctant male friend responded.

Amy clasped her hands in joy, "That means…we're getting married!"

She lunged at the hedgehog with smothers and kisses, ready to squeeze the poor creature almost to death in a lethal, yet lovely hug.

"No…" Sonic mumbled out, and attempted to dash out of the dead end.

It was tricky. Amy knew his methods well, and would extend her hands wide like a football goalkeeper, knowing he'll come right into her firm feminine grip. Last month he tried to curve left from the wall. She tickled him off balance into a blush. Then Sonic tried to blast right, and his nose bumped straight into her lips. Now he would rush right through the middle, crouching down to slide as he slipped between her legs and into freedom.

"Yes!" he exclaimed, seeing no more Amy on the horizon.

And...the hero couldn't crawl any further. The date-happy hedge caught him by his large shoes and then dropped down on his back, grinning. She wasn't heavy to brush off, but his footwear was taken hostage! The female squeezed his sneakers together, trying to twist them off Sonic's feet.

"Say Marriage!" she ordered.

"Uncle!" he whined, desperately flapping his hands on the ground

"I said Marriage!!!"

"No, no, uncle!"

He was immediately let go in disgrace, "That means my uncle, the mayor of Station Square, will take away your benefits and you'll have to pay up all the food bills and traffic tickets," she said in a serious, threatening tone, which was a rarity for that person. And if that doesn't get your hardcore love on me, nothing will, she thought.

"No, I meant, I can't say that because…" Sonic continued.

Amy turned around with hands on her hips and an angry glare in her eyes, "Because what?"

The heavily thinking hedgehog used all of his imagination to construct an ingenious idea in his brain. Do or die. He'd never survive his chilidog debtsl! "Because we are going on a nice romantic trip to…"

Slowly, word-by-word, he explained it. Amy's eyes got their jolly shine back and the usual smile returned as he continued speaking. It was a point of no return and he couldn't get away with the 'I forgot' act in such a situation.

"…Germany!" he finished. "Yeah, that's right! We're going to Germany!"

"Really?" Amy asked, cuteness mounting enough to make a Geiger counter blare.

"Under one condition, though," Sonic warned her, having had enough time to think while her cheeks turned pinker and pinker...more pink than he imagined possible.

"Okay," came the reply from Sonic's unsuspecting victim.

Sonic smiled, knowing that he would get something good in the deal as well, "You can't talk or even think about dates!"

"Okay!" Amy screamed as she jumped at him, putting her hands around his neck and tying them up in a triple slipknot for safekeeping.

The trip idea was nice, but he soon regretted postponing speeding tickets, because he'd eventually find a price above his life's budget.

The hedgehog followed Amy's lead with all of her luggage set on his: shoulders, back, head, hands, and even mouth. Various suitcases and bags made him look like a wobbly-moving mountain. Luckily for him, the furry couldn't see, how silly a walking mountain of his type looked.

"Which way now?" Sonic murmured from under the baggage.

Missing the question, Amy saw something that sparkled her interest, "Hold on a moment…" she told the hedgehog before running off.

To Sonic's luck, the load-blind hedgehog didn't hear her, too.

Sonic wobbled around the airport's terminal seeking the person that was supposed to direct him. "Amy!" Sonic called her, but didn't get any desirable response. "Amy! Where are you?" He called again, this time with anger building up below the hard-to-carry load, but the mass the creature had on his shoulders didn't let anyone hear him.

People simply watched the hill get on the moving escalator, walk up two steps and trip, sending its weight down to the ground and on the unlucky creature that happened to be at the spot of the fall. The furry got up in a few seconds, holding his aching, bruised nose. Anger turned into fury as he got to the escalator's top and set his gaze down to the first floor of the terminal.

Ugh… Where is she! he thought, rubbing his nose. She couldn't have gotten far...

Once realization came to him entirely, the hedgehog started looking at the bright side of his situation and smiled.

"What am I worried about? Maybe she finally…dang!"

The newly born freedom idea was shattered, because he noticed the relentless annoyance in the end. Signs of pleasure left him instantly.

The female was talking to a furry group, who happened to be: Shadow, Rouge, Knuckles and Tails. All members had suitcases, indicating that the bunch was going somewhere. Sonic's mind tried to convince his conscious self that they were certainly not going along with Amy and him, but obviously somewhere else. Sadly, even the biggest of hopes were destroyed when the gang got to the second floor. His eyes widened in shock of such a company seeing him and Amy together. Fear seized him as he imagined himself being mocked in the outcome. The amount of adrenaline in Sonic's body increasing rapidly. An all-time winner couldn't let them see such a situation, which would mean certain defeat against the annoyance in the public eye and a funny subject of conversation.

"W-what are all of you doing here?" he asked in a stunned voice, trying to calm down

"We were invited to tag along with you two lovebirds!" Knuckles exclaimed with a fake hint of friendly happiness.

Sonic's nightmares came true. It was never meant for them to see him in a way like this. He simply stood there, frozen in sheer terror, but conscious enough to see the evil smirk on Shadow's face.

Even when all seemed lost, the most tormented hero tried to persuade his colleagues not to go with him.

The group entered the enormous white Boeing jet that was supposed to take them to Germany, meaning that Sonic had to take action before it was too late and the airplane had taken off. He sighed and tried the puny chances with Knuckles.

"How's the Master Emerald, Knux?" he asked with fingers crossed for luck.

Knuckles raised an eyebrow, ignorant to the reason of the question, "Fine."

"But is it safe to simply leave it alone on the island?"

"Yup," the echidna replied, surprising his conversationalist.

"You know how dangerous it is to-" the sneaky hero continued his plot until he stumbled upon realization, "-what?"

Knuckles grinned after finally understanding the point, "Tails put an alarm system so it would be okay for sure. Don't worry, I'll be with you through your whole vacation!"

Shit…

Sonic's plan started to fail in the very beginning, but the main problem with the name Shadow could still be removed with success. At least that was what the blue fiend thought.

Everybody except Sonic, who was trying to pick the right moment to talk to Shadow, took their seats and got ready for take off. The nervous hedgehog stared at the neighboring brown leather seat with Amy on it.

Okay, no matter what that bastard says, I won't get intimidated, thought the hedgehog and immediately ran up to his rival's seat.

He caught Shadow reading the paper he had brought to reduce boredom during the flight.

"What do you want, faker?" Shadow spat out, not raising his eyes from the newspaper.

Okay, Sonic… This is it! What could get him out of here? Maria! Wait, she's dead… That won't do. Eggman! That's right, Eggman! Sonic beamed, as he finally got the perfect plan to get rid of Shadow's company for the painful trip period.

Unfortunately, he glimpsed at Shadow's literature and noticed a very interesting article: The notorious evil scientist, Dr. Eggman died in an attempt of causing an earthquake.

"Eggman died?!"

Shadow glared at the noisy hedgehog irritably, "Yeah…and if you don't want to join him, you better keep your annoying voice down."

The hopeless victim of circumstance had nothing to do but get back to his seat and enjoy Amy's company for the rest of the trip. He sat down, still dazed by what he had read, and let his mind drown in thoughts.

Why does life hate me so much? For all the times I wanted that doctor dead, he decides to abandon me in the worst moment!

It was no use to back away from his promise, even if he explained the situation to Amy. The bluish rodent tried to be positive during the trip, for it was the only way, which would help him stay comparatively sane.

The girls decided to go on a picnic on that bright and sunny summer day, but, despite the fact that the idea seemed pretty good and no one objected, the group pushed picnic time from noon to evening. Sonic needed the time to learn German for "picnic".

Everyone had packed only the essential things, like junk food, soft drinks, blankets, a computer, and an inflatable beach ball.

After some hours of trying to find the right place for the meal and a long way of failing to do so, the group was getting quite tired and exasperated after an extensive time of traveling on foot. However, that wasn't their main plight.

Rouge gave Sonic and Shadow a death glare, "If it weren't for you guys, we would have already been on the way back!" She exclaimed.

"It's not my fault the faker here is afraid of ants," Shadow said with a smirk.

Sonic didn't respond but simply looked at him, as if saying: "I hate you."

"If I don't see the spot that fits everyone in five minutes, I'm going home!" Rouge threatened no one in particular.

A moment later, Amy joined the whining bat, "Ohhh…my feet hurt," the female moaned and put the sandwich basket she had on the ground

"Maybe your future husband would like to carry you?" Shadow offered Sonic's services to the girl to enjoy some field drama.

Sonic grinned victoriously, "In your dreams, Shadow! We've made it!" he exclaimed, pointing at a beautiful green field with a forest nearby.

"No flowers that Rouge is allergic to, no wet puddles that Knuckles hates, no annoying kids that Shadow doesn't like, no radio towers or electricity cables that could harm Tails' computer, and absolutely no ants!"

Everyone sighed with relief, as a perfect picnic spot that would suit everyone was found. The green grass harmonized with leaves rustling in a dense old-growth forest. Everything would be silent if it wasn't for the light summery breeze and the campers. It could have seemed that nature decided to give a restful retreat for the busy furries. Even the hot, blazing sun had hidden itself behind the white, swiftly floating clouds, making the air warm and snug. Even though it was a great moment to have a nice, peaceful meal, there could be no such term available while the group was together. Shadow and Knuckles used the fizzy soda pop as a short-range weapon against Sonic and broke the peace. The hedgehog had no choice but to retaliate, which caused a chain reaction among the eaters.

But as all good things in life begin, they end unexpectedly fast. There was no exception this time.

"Woo-hoo! I'm number one!" Sonic yelled as he fell on the large blue picnic blanked.

"You're only saying that because every time you missed me you hit somebody else," Shadow mocked..

"It wasn't this fun since the time Eggman used that Rolling Egg of Doom," Sonic chuckled, seeing that the humorous memories of past battles with the deceased villain came, "Knucklehead, you got your tail flattened that time!"

Knuckles didn't look amused by those painful, yet funny memoirs, "Don't remind me...they sent me to a veterinary urologist in hospital...whatever evil that meant."

"But that stopped the device. Eggman surely lost it…"

"Like he ever had it," Shadow added.

The junk food made its effects visible to the naked eye as everyone got tired and sleepy. It was not a surprise that even the ever-lasting arguments between Sonic and Shadow ended and both of them settled down.

"I'll really miss that guy…" Sonic said in a barely hearable tone and yawned.

His half-open eyes gazed at the darkening sky. Sun was slowly and steadily disappearing from his sight, falling straight into the solitude of the forest, which soon showed the furries that it was nighttime.

They previously planned to get away from the cement jungle only for a short moment, and no one had even predicted spending the night far from civilization. At least, it seemed so for an untrained eye. Nobody was actually getting ready to leave the place that gave the whole group a rare time of enjoyment and relaxation. That is, until Rouge remembered her needs.

"I'm not going to sleep on the cold ground, no matter what you guys say."

"You'll have to go all alone back to the hotel room. And do you know that muggers may have arranged a date for you already?"

"Hmph… I can stand up for myself."

Knuckles chuckled, for a memory of a similar situation came to him.

"What happened the last time you said that? Oh, yeah! I remember!" exclaimed the echidna.

"You tripped and hit yourself on the head, giving that guard robot enough time to turn around and electrocute you. You should have seen your hair. Hilarious!" the dreadlocked male told his story, trying hard not to laugh.

"Ah ha! So you were following me!"

Everyone laughed.

"But still…the ground I'm not going to sleep on," said the bat and turned her back on Knuckles as a clear sign of protest.

Tails has been pulling something out of his backpack for the last ten minutes and got into the conversation at its turning point when he was done.

"Why sleep on the ground when I've got tents?" the vulpine asked, showing a few plastic bags with a large piece of fabric and metal rods in each.

The group got quiet for a moment until Sonic broke the silence.

"Tails, you never told us you had those."

"And Knuckles never told you that he had sleeping bags," responded the fox.

"Traitor! Those were for me and…and I'm not sharing!"

"Oh come on, Knuckles! You have enough for everyone and if you don't want me to tell them that…" Tails started, but Knuckles put his gloved hand on the fox's mouth and silenced him.

"Okay, Tails, you won. I won't need all of them, so…everyone gets one!" Knuckles announced with a troubled smile on his face.

Knuckles' actions seemed quite peculiar for the whole group, but strangely enough, they didn't bother to ask, but got busy with the tents.

Constructing one seemed to be an easy task at first, but most campers found it pretty difficult. The only one that didn't have a problem with making the tent look just as it was showed in the manual was Tails. He managed to fully put it up in less than two minutes. Other furries looked very miserable to him, while trying to make it stand firmly on the ground. The smart fox had no choice but to help them, as he was never able to bear the guilt's attacks after doing otherwise. He came to aid Sonic at first, and got him out of the tent's fabric that made him look like a mummy. Then Tails assisted Knuckles and Rouge, so the echidna wouldn't have to impress her with masculine tent dropping skills.

Amy was next. The pink female hedgehog couldn't put the stabilizing poles into the ground, so that they would keep the tent from rolling up into its previous state. Shadow was the most problematic case of them all, though. He refused to get his shelter into a usable condition with team spirit, and inconvincibly decided to take care of it by himself.

It took Shadow an hour to get to the roots of the problem, but he was satisfied in the end. He had victoriously conquered the tent and was finally ready to take some well-deserved rest called sleep. Meanwhile, the rest of the gang had already fallen aslumber and enjoyed their trip to Dreamland. He joined them later, but he did, nevertheless.

The bright full moon rose into the heavens to guard the sky until the end of its shift. Its light, like a lonely guardian, was sent down to the ground below, preventing total darkness from engulfing it. Although, it could have seemed that the guard would shield it well enough, the situation was much more serious in reality and the solitary glow was not adequate to stop darkness from unleashing its sinister powers upon the world.

In the mean time, all was tranquil and undisturbed, unprepared for the chaotic touch of danger.