Yes, I know that Sally is not afraid of flying, and yes, I know that Tails now has a girlfriend. At the time I wrote this, though, none of that had happened, and I don't know that much about the comic book anyway. Tails has always been my favorite, over Sonic, and maybe I just thought he needed the chance to be the hero for once.

I also realize now that Tails is strong enough to pick up more than one person. I've tried to correct a couple of other errors, but the story wouldn't exactly work without that detail. If you still want to flame me, try thinking about it as an alternate universe or something.

This story is rated R, for language, and the rather provocative situation that occurs near the end.

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"Growing Up"

by Richard Ryley



"Don't worry, Princess, I'll get us out of this."

For the fourth time in as many minutes, Tails wondered how he was going to get them out of this. They'd managed to find an out of the way corner of the old factory, but the Robotized monsters were still on their trail, and they were running out of places to go.

The factory wasn't supposed to be active. Robotnik had been defeated ten years ago, and his Robotizing machines dismantled. Just one had escaped their notice, hidden out on this island, away from the main continent of Mobius. Robotnik hadn't mentioned it when he'd been captured, one last suprise for them, apparently, and his henchmen didn't know about it. It was a last ditch defense, a hideout where he could escape to. Unfortunately for Robotnik, he never got to use it.

Unfortunately for them, they had found out about it. He and Sally had headed out in the SeaFox to disable the factory, only to find it come back to life as they entered the control room. Robotnik had programmed one last trap, shutting off the hapless pair in the control room, with thousands of Robotnik drones programmed to kill them on sight.

"I wish Sonic were here," Sally said.

Tails felt a flash of jealousy. Sonic the Hedgehog was his best friend, but it was hard not to feel jealous of him. He was the hero of Mobius. He had defeated Robotnik, saved the whole planet, and everyone was SO grateful. Tails had fought at Sonic's side, braved the same dangers Sonic had, but did he get any of the credit? No.

Even Robotnik himself thought only of Sonic. In the ultimate irony, Robotnik had programmed this trap specifically for Sonic, but it was he and Sally that got caught in it. The mission was too "unimportant" for the "hero of Mobius". And so he had to hear Robotnik's programmed voice gloating about how he'd "finally destroyed the great Sonic the Hedgehog" -- when Sonic wasn't even there.

And even worse, Sonic had Sally. Oh, it had occured to Tails that they weren't kids any more. That Sally wasn't a kid any more. He thought about it every time he looked at her. He wasn't a little boy any more, he was almost seventeen, and the way he looked at Sally had changed long ago.

They had all grown up together, fighting against Robotnik. Sonic had gotten tall and muscular, although he was still the lithe, agile speed demon he had always been. And Sally had also gotten tall, and slender, her body becoming exquisitely feminine, with long, shapely legs, and a definate curve to her furred chest.

But everybody still treated HIM like a child. Sure, he was the youngest of all of them, and allowed on the team, at first, only because he was Sonic's friend. But over time, he would have thought that he had proven himself to everyone. But he was still short, and stocky, and although his voice had stopped cracking a few months ago, it hadn't deepened that much. His friends still thought of him as that little boy that hung out with Sonic.

"Yeah, I wish he was here too," Tails said. "Sonic always knows what to do." He couldn't let Sally know how jealous he was. She had always been a good friend to him, and although it drove him crazy to be near her these days, he still liked having her around. Sometimes he thought that she was with him more than with Sonic, and he even thought that maybe she liked him better, but he always put that thought out of his mind. How could he compete with the hero of Mobius?

"Well, he isn't here, so we'll have just figure out a way out of here on our own," Sally said. Tails nodded, and peeked around the corner. A couple of Robotnik's 'bots came speeding out of a hallway, and headed straight for them.

"Uh-oh!" Tails said. "We've got company!" He leaped out into the room, jumping over the head of the first of them as if began blasting him with its laser. Curling himself into a ball as Sonic had taught him, he rolled down the back of another robot, and landed neatly on his feet. With a sound like the cracking of a whip, Tails' right tail lashed out at the robot's treads, tearing through it and forcing the robot to fall over to one side.

Tails couldn't slice through his enemies like a buzz-saw, like Sonic could, but his twin tails were tough and muscular, and years of fighting had turned them into lethal weapons. He used them singly or together, to slash and tear at his opponents, and his attack mode was just as deadly as Sonic's razor-sharp quills. Sally, too, was pretty dangerous, he noted, as she had leaped at the robot which had fired at Tails, one foot outstretched, and kicked its head right out of its socket.

He turned his attention back to the fight at hand. They'd taken out two of five robots, and two more of them were drawing a bead on him again. Tails leaped again, between the two robots, and their laser turrets swiveled to follow his arc, leading the path of his jump by just the right amount.

As the two weapons powered up to fire, however, Tails shifted his weight to bring his hips up above his head, and flicked his tails into the manuever that had earned him his name. His twin tails weren't just weapons, they could also be used for other tricks. The muscle power he could channel though his furred limbs could be used to spin them, like a fan, pushing him along at tremendous speeds, speeds rivalling even those of the lightning-fast hedgehog.

And when he held his tails horizontally, and directed the force downward, he could fly.

Tails shot upward, out of the line of fire, as the two robots both blasted him at once. The laser beams flashed through the spot where he'd been, only seconds before, and slammed into the opposing robot. Tails had taken both robots out, at the same time, by using their own weapons against them.

The little fox grinned as he coasted back toward the ground. Sonic hadn't taught him how to fly, he had figured it out for himself. It was the one thing that made him special, the one thing that made him different, from Sonic, and from every other being on Mobius. Even if no one else thought he was worth much, Tails, himself, was proud that he could fly.

As he turned to see how Sally was doing, however, he gasped. He was just in time to see the robot draw a bead on her and blast her, its laser cutting cruelly into her shoulder. Tails felt his heart skip a beat as the beautiful princess screamed in agony, and fell to the ground.

Tails dropped on the robot from above. These monsters were big, and powerful, more powerful than the Robotized citizens of Mobius that Robotnik had transformed into machines, and brainwashed into doing his bidding. Tails even doubted that these guards had ever been normal animals. But at this moment, he didn't care. He slashed furiously into the machine's brain case, scattering wires and circuitry everywhere.

He ran to Sally's side. To his relief, her eyes fluttered as he neared, but her arm was bleeding, and she was grimacing from the pain. He helped her sit up. "Oh, Sally... how bad is it?"

"Pretty bad," she said tightly. "But I can still walk."

"You won't be able to if you lose much more blood," Tails said. He plopped down onto his rear and started taking off his shoes.

"What are you doing?" Sally asked him, somewhat perturbed.

Tails pulled off a white sock and ripped it in half. "You know Robotnik never keeps anything organic in his fortresses. I'll never be able to find cloth in here."

He pulled off the other sock and did the same with it. "Don't worry," he said with a grin. "I washed my feet only just last week."

Sally's eyes widened, and he laughed. "That was a joke! I took a bath just this morning, Sally, I swear."

Sally grinned at him. "Okay, Tails, I believe you." She giggled, then drew her breath in sharply as Tails wrapped the improvised tournaquet around her shoulder.

"Sorry," Tails said. He could see her blood seeping into the white fabric of his socks. "We need to get you out of here."

The grin returned. "I believe that's what we were just talking about."

He helped her to her feet. "Well, Sonic's not going to show up to rescue us. So I guess it's up to me."

Sally patted his head. "I'm sure you'll do fine."

She'd meant to be reassuring, but the pat on the head had hurt worse than if she'd slapped him. To her, he was just a little boy, to be comforted with a pat on the head. Tails tried to control both the rising anger, and the unexplained tears threatening to well up behind his eyes. Now was the time for him to be calm, and in control of the situation. Sally needed him, and no matter what she thought of him, he would be there for her.

They limped along down a passageway, but their escape was cut short by a roar from up ahead. More robots were coming to check on the defeat of the last, and from the sound of it, there were quite a few of them. There was no way he could face them all alone, and Sally was too weak to risk in a direct confrontation.

"Only one thing to do, Princess," Tails said, as the robots zoomed into view. "Run for it."

He scooped her up into his arms, and took off running back the way they'd come. Sally cried out as the sudden movement jarred her shoulder, and then stared at him in suprise. "Sorry," he said, about the arm. He didn't comment on her astonishment as to what he was doing.

To be honest, he wasn't sure WHAT he was doing. Sonic often grabbed Sally and carried her out of some danger with his incredible speed, but Tails hadn't done that before. He knew for sure that he wouldn't be able to run as fast with her weight as he could without her, but he wasn't sure if she would throw him off balance so much he couldn't use his tails at full speed.

But he did know one thing. He wasn't going to let her get hurt again. If it took breaking both his tails off to save her, he'd do it.

Sally looked down, watching the ground go by, faster and faster, as Tails picked up speed. She closed her eyes, wrapping her arms tightly around Tails' neck. "Oh... I HATE it when Sonic does this..." she muttered.

Tails let himself enjoy the warm feeling of her body pressed against his, just for a moment. But he had more important things to think about. The robots, suprised to see him at first, were now coming after him with a vengance. Tails was forced to zig-zag to dodge their laser fire, which further delayed his getting up to full speed. He gritted his teeth, pushing as hard as he could, bringing his weight forward slowly, as he began to spin his tails.

At just the right moment, he leaped, extending himself, and applied the full force of his muscular tails to forward thrust. He started to tip over, righted himself slightly by bringing his legs back up a little bit, and finally settled into a stable position. He was literally flying a few inches off of the floor, kicking occasionally with his toes, just enough to keep him from smashing into the ground.

Sally gave a little scream, grabbing Tails tightly, and opened her eyes. She looked down at the ground below them, and then up at Tails. An odd look crossed her face as she noticed the intensity of Tails' expression, the concentration and the strain in his face.

She looked back at the robots, now falling behind them, then back down at the ground. She gasped a little, and grabbed Tails again, looking away from the ground as quickly as possible. After a moment, she managed to open her eyes again.

"We'll get away from them now, Princess," Tails said breathily.

She nodded. "I've never really thought about how you run before, Tails. It feels... different that when Sonic does it."

"How so?"

"I don't know... you seem to be in kind of a... unstable position."

"Are you scared?"

She must have noticed Tails' expression. "No, no, that's not what I mean. It's just that..."

She paused a moment. "Well, if it's as dangerous for you to run like this as it LOOKS, and you still do, well, you must be a very, very brave fox."

Tails thought about that for a moment. It had never struck him as being brave. Sure, he knew full well how dangerous it was to move at this speed. Many was the time, when he was first learning, that he would fall on his face, or slam into something. He had the broken bones to prove how dangerous it was. But he wanted to be able to keep up with Sonic, to run as fast as Sonic, and his tails gave him the power to do just that.

Sonic had been patient with him, helping him learn, and teaching him how to move at such great speed. "You have to keep your head ahead of your feet," he'd say, "and I don't mean by a few inches, I mean by a few MILES!" His lessons had served Tails well, and by the time he had joined the team fighting against Robotnik, he'd mastered the trick so well that he almost never got hurt.

So, to Sonic, maybe, it was obvious how hard Tails was having to work to keep up with him, but to Sally it wasn't. And Tails remembered that Sonic always made a big deal of his help, even if nobody else did.

"Oh, SHIT!" Tails never cursed, which is why Sally looked up at him, and then forward at what he was looking at. As she saw the robots coming at them, she cried out, as well.

"Hang on, Princess!" Tails flicked his right tail slightly out of the arc of its path, diverting its thrust to one side. Sally screamed as his body twisted sideways, and then shot off in another direction. Sally seemed to tense as a small tunnel rushed up to meet them, and then they were heading down a side passageway.

Sally struggled to catch her breath. "My God, Tails, how did you know that passage was there?"

"I saw it out of the corner of my eye when we turned that corner back there." He looked down at her. "I'm not watching where I AM, Sally, I'm looking at where I will BE. Which is about thirty yards ahead, a second from now..."

Sally gasped and clung to him again, closing her eyes. Tails had to admit, he rather liked that. "Don't worry, Princess. Sonic taught me well."

"I never really thought about how fast he was going," Sally said, still not opening her eyes. "And he never told me that bit about how far ahead he has to look."

"He probably didn't want you to worry," Tails said. "Uh-oh."

"What?"

"Hold on to me," Tails said. He crouched down over her, curling himself into a ball. Sally screamed yet again, as they shot out of the tube, and Tails took out the two robots guarding the exit with his tails. He snapped back to full extension, crying out in pain as Sally's weight tore at his arm muscles, and resumed his full speed position.

They were outside the factory, heading towards the wall. Robots were everywhere, firing at them in a maze of blinding light. Somehow, Tails managed to dodge the fire, zig-zagging across the field as he headed for the gate, and the robots that waited for them there.

Sally stared at him, her eyes wide. She then reached up and wiped some of the sweat off of his face. "That really hurt, didn't it?"

Tails just nodded. Sally closed her eyes again and held him closer. "Sally..." He said.

She opened her eyes. "Yeah?"

"I don't think we're gonna make it..."

Her eyes got a little wider, that was all, and then her jaw set at a firm line. "I understand..."

Tails paused a moment, to catch his breath. "I think... we've got one chance..."

She looked at him. She could see the doubt in his eyes. "What chance?"

"If I fly you out of here."

Sally's eyes did widen, that time. "Tails... can you do that? You've never carried anyone while flying before!"

"I know..." He looked down at her, then back up at the path ahead. "But I don't see as I have any choice."

Sally nodded. She held him tightly. It was really starting to feel good. With an jolt like a electric shock running through his body, Tails suddenly realized he could feel a very soft part of her body pressing against him.

He closed his eyes, for a moment, to force that image away. "I just wanted you to know... in case I can't do it... that I tried... and... I'm sorry..."

"I know," her voice said from against his shoulder. Up ahead, he could see the robots arranged in a roadblock, maybe ten or twenty of them. He shoved upward with his feet, rolling his body into the right position.

Tails knew that he could control the shape of his tails, to an extent. He could make them flat on one side, or the other, giving them aerodynamic lift, or tilt them, to change the amount of lift. And there was a magical element to his power, too. Those mysterious golden rings, which so often appeared out of nowhere around Mobius, gave both him and Sonic magical powers.

But for the most part, what he could do came down to strength, raw, physical strength. He had to twirl his tails fast enough for the air they displaced to lift his body -- and now Sally's -- off the ground.

When he was twelve, he couldn't have carried anybody. He wouldn't have had the strength. But his small, stocky body was growing up, and he was stronger now that he'd ever been. He could run faster, fly longer, and fight harder than he ever could before. And maybe, just maybe, he was strong enough to save Sally.

All he had to do was change the path his tails were travelling. He didn't have to reverse their direction (he thanked God) but he DID have to make the AIR reverse direction. To do that, he had to make his tails push the air the other way. And he had to do it without ripping them out of their sockets.

He grimaced, biting back a cry of pain as his weight shifted off of his legs, and onto his tails. He concentrated on his tails, making them move as he wanted them to, not the way the air around them wanted them to. He was in control, not the air, he would move the air, it would NOT move him.

He strained harder as the robots shot at him. They weren't coming at him, he knew, he was flying at them, the momentum of his built-up speed bringing him to them at a phenomenal rate. His initial leap gave him a bit of vertical momentum, but gravity was taking over now, and he was beginning to sink. If he was going to fly, he was going to have to fly NOW. And he was going to have to do it for this... for this beautiful lady in his arms.

Even if he was just a silly little boy with a crush on a princess.

Sally gripped him tightly as he pulled her upward, straining his body beyond its limits. They sailed over the heads of the robots and towards the high wall that surrounded the complex. Somehow, Tails managed to lift them both over the top, although her ankles still banged against the hard stone.

To his suprise, however, it was getting easier, as their forward speed diminished, and he began to get used to her weight. He shifted his grip on her slightly, to better balance her body under his center of gravity. He found that a slight adjustment in the path of his tails helped a bit more, also, and sailed off over the beach towards the SeaFox.

Sally was still frightened, however, and when she opened her eyes to look down, she suddenly screamed and held him even tighter. She hooked her legs around his, wrapping her arms tightly around his back as she clung to him. That helped his balance a little more, but she was now pressing against him in an uncomfortably intimate way.

"Sorry," Tails said. "I should have warned you not to look down." His tails were starting to get tired, and sore, but he felt sure he could carry her all the way to the SeaFox, now. He felt elated, lighter than air, holding her tightly in his arms, with her holding onto him just as tightly.

Unfortunately, the contact with her body was having another effect on him. He hadn't expected it, but it was definately starting to happen. At first embarassed at what was happening, he suddenly realized that she might be able to feel it, too. That thought REALLY made him feel embarassed.

He tried to concentrate on the task at hand, but found that it was impossible. Whether it was the adrenaline rush of their narrow escape, or the firmness of her body against his, he couldn't tell, but he could not stop thinking about her. Any minute now, she would notice things that were starting to press against her.

He had to put her down. "Sally... I can't go any further." It wasn't exactly a lie. "I'm going to land on the beach."

"Good..." Sally said, her voice small and terrified. She was still holding him fiercely, which was only making his predicament grow. He drifted down to the sand and put her down.

Dropping onto the sand next to her, he collapsed. It must have been adrenaline after all, because he found that he was exhausted. His tails ached like they never had before, and he was panting to catch his breath. Sally, too, lay in the sand next to him, either exhausted by the ordeal of their escape, or still dazed by fright.

Suddenly there was a muffled explosion. A second, louder one shook the island as the main building exploded, and suddenly the entire complex was on fire. Several more explosions sounded, and the few robots that were filing out of the gates suddenly dropped in their tracks, dead.

Sally looked up. "I'll be damned."

Tails breathed a sigh of relief, still laying in the sand. "That grenade you dropped in the control room must have gone off after all. It just had a delayed reaction."

Sally nodded. "Well, you saved my life anyway." She grinned at Tails, a new look of respect in her eyes. "Come on, let's get to the SeaFox."

Tails, however, didn't move. He wasn't in any shape to stand up, yet. "I think I want to lay here a moment more. That took a lot out of me..."

"Oh. I understand." Sally kneeled down next to him, running her hand along his back. Tails cursed to himself. That didn't help.

"Are you all right?" Sally asked him, looking him over. She'd felt him wince when she touched him. "You didn't get hit, did you?"

"What? No! I'm fine. I just need to rest."

"Here... turn over and let me see. You never know, you may have been grazed by a stray lazer blast."

"No! No! I'm fine, really!" Tails was beginning to panic.

Sally frowned at him angrily. "Look, you, if you're hurt, I want to know about it, now TURN OVER!"

She grabbed him and flipped him over onto his back. Her eyes went wide at what she saw, and then she turned a vivid pink. Tails could feel himself blushing, too.

Sally stood up and walked away from him. She stood there, for a few moments, as Tails sat up, folding his hands in his lap.

"Oh, Tails, I'm so sorry," she finally said, putting a hand to her head. "I guess I should have realized what I was doing to you, holding onto you like that..."

"No, it's my fault," Tails said dejectedly. "I shouldn't have been thinking about you like that."

"No, don't think that!" Sally turned around. "It's perfectly normal for you to think of me like that. I'm a girl, and you're a guy. There's nothing wrong with that."

Tails couldn't look her in the eye. He could still feel the heat on his face. "You mean... you aren't... offended..."

Sally giggled. "Of course not." She walked over to sit beside him, and put a hand on his shoulder.

"I must admit I haven't thought about you in that way..." She looked him over, as if seeing him for the first time. Her hand went down the length of his arm. "... but I think that I should have."

They were both silent for a time. "Tails," Sally began. "How long have you been... thinking about me... ?"

"Forever, it seems," Tails said sadly. "I first started to notice a couple of years ago. I noticed other girls, too." He looked up at her. "But they weren't quite like you..."

Sally smiled at him. "Oh, Tails, that's so sweet..." She paused a moment. "You really are in love with me, aren't you?"

Tails blushed and looked away. Sally smiled and shook her head. "Am I going to have to make the first move with ALL the guys in my life?" She muttered.

Before Tails could recover from that statement, she spoke again. "Tails... would you like to go out with me some time?"

Tails looked at her, astonished. "What... what about Sonic?"

Sally sighed. "Oh, I can never tell with him. I LIKE him, and I think he likes me, but he can be so FULL of himself, sometimes. He can never admit that he needs ANYONE... even you, Tails."

Tails nodded. "You know, a girl likes to feel needed," Sally told him, staring at him earnestly.

He stared back at her. "You don't KNOW how long I've needed you..."

She leaned forward, pursing her lips, but Tails put up a hand. "Wait."

She stopped, staring at him. "Sonic is my friend. I know you two don't always get along, but..."

"And you don't think Sonic would be happy for you if you found somebody to love?" She asked him. Tails looked away for a moment, thinking.

"I'm not ready to settle down and have a serious relationship," Sally said. "And I KNOW Sonic isn't. So I don't have to make up my mind yet. And in case you hadn't noticed, it's MY mind, and MY decision, not Sonic's."

Tails nodded, still not looking at her. "I know everybody ASSUMES that we'll get together. And really, he's a really good friend, and I love him. But you're a really good friend, too. And as much as he's always been there for me when I needed him, you've always been there, too."

"I guess it took what happened today for me to see that."

She stood up, taking his hand, and he stood up with her. She stepped close to him, wrapping her arms around his neck. She kissed him on the lips, a nice, long kiss. She only had to lean down a little bit to do it.

"Are you recovered enough to fly again?" She asked.

"I think so, why?"

She wrapped her arms tightly around him. She winced a little as her wounded arm complained, but then shifted it slightly, taking her weight off of it.

"Take me back into the sky," she said.

"I thought you were afraid of flying." Tails said.

"I am," she answered. "But *I* can be brave, too."




THE END