Chapter #10: Final Revelations

11:00 AM

Big's House, Mystic Ruins Jungle

Big's small, wooden hut was crowded more than usual. Including its normal occupants—Big and Froggy—there were five inside the hut…and one of them was occupying Big's bed, much to the feline's annoyance. But Knuckles had insisted that they put Sonic on his bed, and he had known there was no other choice; even Big and Froggy could see that the blue hedgehog was very sick. After laying Sonic in bed and covering him up with blankets, Knuckles checked his vital signs.

"What's wrong with him?"

The echidna nearly jumped when Big startled him. He turned and replied, "Eggman poisoned him."

"Oh. That guy is always mean."

Rolling his eyes in irritation, Knuckles turned back to Sonic and touched his forehead; it was hot and sweaty with fever—exactly what he had expected.

Cream stood nervously on the other side of the bed, watching the hero moan and shiver. "How is he, Knuckles?" she asked timidly.

He sighed. "The fever is hotter than before, and the symptoms are worse. The poison's got a good grip on him, Cream."

"Will Mr. Sonic get better? Will it go away like a cold?"

Knuckles shook his head sadly at her childish question. "No, he won't get better. The fever and pain will get worse, until…"

"Until what, Knuckles?"

"…Until the poison takes over his body."

Suddenly Cream understood. "You mean he'll…"

The echidna and rabbit locked gazes, and the word they dared not speak passed through their looks. Cream broke the stare first, tears filling her eyes. When she looked at Sonic, she instantly turned away to prevent herself from crying.

Knuckles stood up and walked away from the bed, stopping at a window. Silently he gazed at the rainforest, but out of the corner of one eye he watched the hedgehog fighting the battle for his life…and losing it.

Only ten minutes later, Tails, Amy, and Cheese made it to Big's house, completely exhausted from all the running they had done that day. Before crossing the river to the hut, they paused to get their second wind. Then they heard a shout, and they looked up to see Cream darting out of the hut with Knuckles following. Cheese hugged his friend's neck, but he was ignored and forced to let go when she latched onto Amy—not in greeting as first supposed, but in fright.

Amy stepped back a bit, puzzled by her behavior. "Cream, what's wrong?"

The girl replied with her voice cracking, "It's Mr. Sonic, Amy. He's d…d…"

The fox and hedgehog held their breath, waiting for her to tell them they were too late. But she didn't. Instead she turned and asked Knuckles, "What was that word you said, Knuckles?"

"Delirious," the echidna replied. When Amy gave him a puzzled look, he explained, "He's having hallucinations and being restless. He scared Cream. I hate it to say it, guys, but…we're losing him."

Tails' ears drooped a bit, but then, remembering the item in his right hand, brightened and opened his palm. "We won't lose him, because we have this."

Knuckles stared at the vial of antidote. "How'd you get it? When we sent Metal packing, he said the vial was destroyed."

"He was lying. He had a fake vial; this one is real. Eggman had it."

The echidna took the vial and said, "Then let's give it to Sonic while he still has a chance."

Everyone ran into the hut, and they found Sonic tossing and turning in bed with the blanket and pillow lying on the floor. Along with his moans and gasps for breath, he mumbled unclear words, with some sounding like "Eggman" and "Metal". On one side of the bed, Big sat on a large stool, watching the hedgehog for Knuckles to ensure that he wouldn't hurt himself in his delirium.

Amy stopped in the entrance and covered her mouth, and Tails bit his lip; both had never seen their friend like this before, and it was a gruesome sight. But the fox took a breath and walked over to the bedside with Knuckles and Big.

"He's calmed down a bit," Knux said as he felt the hero's forehead. "I wasn't able to touch him before. Hopefully he'll let us give him the antidote. We just need to be gentle, I think."

Knuckles climbed onto the bed and took Sonic's head in his hands. Sonic thrashed around for a little bit, and then gave up moments after. The echidna gestured for Tails to hand him the antidote, which he had opened. When the boy gave him the vial, he pressed on the hedgehog's jaw, forcing him to open his mouth, and carefully poured the antidote into his mouth. Then Knuckles closed his mouth and lifted his head to get him to swallow, hoping that he didn't choke on the liquid and cough it out. Everyone in the room relaxed as Sonic swallowed it and settled into a deep sleep.

Knuckles got off the bed, and Tails put back the pillow and covered Sonic in the blanket again. Amy grabbed a stool and sat firmly by the hedgehog's side, taking one of his hands in hers. She looked at the boys and asked, "Will he be all right now?"

"I think we gave him the antidote just in time," Knuckles replied. "But I'm no doctor; all we can do now is wait…"

Although Sonic looked peaceful in his sleep, he was being tormented in his dreams. He wandered around aimlessly in an empty, pitch-black tunnel. His head was aching with horrible pain, and his body felt like it was on fire. The sneering voice of Eggman echoed down the tunnel, bringing pain to the hero's ears as well. It wasn't so much the loudness of the voice as the words it spoke that made him cringe.

"You have failed, hedgehog! I win! You weren't fast enough to save yourself! Ha! And they call you the fastest thing alive!" boasted the echoes of Eggman. Sonic held his hands over his ears as the doctor burst into fits of maniacal laughter.

Sonic didn't know about the real vial that his pals had stolen from his nemesis, so he believed Eggman's words. He shouted at the voice and told it to leave him alone, screaming until his voice was hoarse. His energy spent, he crumpled to the ground and curled up into a tiny, shivering ball, waiting for the end.

But Eggman's voice had to add one more discouraging remark. "It's all over, Sonic! Even your friends can't save you now."

Sonic opened his eyes, realizing something important. My friends… he thought. Images of them flashed through his mind: Cream hugging him in the trash compactor, Tails cheering as he broke through the warehouse wall, Knuckles' grin after they had saved the runaway train, and Amy's relieved face when he had discovered her in the beach cave.

He had gone to save his pals from certain death in their traps, not caring about himself and his own problem. And even when he had had the chance to turn back and save himself…he hadn't.

A new courage found in him, Sonic slowly stood up and called out to the haunting voice, "No, Eggman, I didn't fail. I rescued my friends; that was my mission."

"But you didn't save yourself!" the doctor shot back.

"So what? At least they're safe."

A moment of silence, and then, "You are a real fool."

"Wrong again, Doc. I'm a hero, and putting others' lives before theirs is what heroes do! And none of 'em ever regret sacrificing themselves for a good cause—and that includes me!"

This revelation silenced the voice for good, and Sonic breathed a sigh of relief. But another voice quickly replaced the old one.

"Sonic…Sonic, wake up…please…"

The voice was feminine… "Amy?" Sonic called out, searching for the source of the voice.

Then he heard another female voice. "Please don't leave us, Mister Sonic." He recognized Cream in an instant; he even heard Cheese whimper a "Chao" in agreement.

Then the voice of Tails echoed off the walls. "Knuckles, he's been out cold for seven hours. Shouldn't he be waking up now?"

Sonic scratched his head. What was his buddy talking about? The poison was killing him…or was there something about the toxin he didn't know?

"Well, his fever's broken, so he's getting better. It might take longer than I thought. I've already said it a thousand times: I'm no doctor, so how should I know exactly?"

Sonic barely heard the last of Knuckles' reply; for some reason, he was feeling very drowsy. He softly fell to the ground—which strangely felt like a mattress—and closed his eyes for a few seconds…

Slowly Sonic's eyes fluttered open, and he blinked hard several times to focus on his surroundings.

He was lying in a bed inside some kind of hut. All of his friends were there—Amy and Cream were crammed shoulder-to-shoulder in a moth-eaten, violet armchair, asleep with Cheese lying in their laps, and Tails and Knuckles were looking out a window. He also spotted Big snoozing in a corner, with Froggy perched on his shoulder.

Upon seeing the hedgehog with his eyes open, the frog croaked and hopped up and down, wanting to rouse his feline companion. "Huh? What? What is it, Froggy?" mumbled Big as he woke up. Then he spotted Sonic. "Hey! The blue guy's up!"

Tails and Knuckles whirled around. "Sonic!" the fox said. "You're awake!"

The hero grinned at his sidekick as he attempted to sit up, which brought him a slight headache. "Ohhh…what happened?" he groaned, holding his forehead with one hand. "I thought I was a goner when Metal had me by the throat…"

"Knuckles, Cream, and Big rescued you," Tails explained. "And we gave you the antidote."

"Huh? But Metal smashed it…"

"He smashed a fake one; it had just water in it. Eggman had the real vial."

Sonic frowned and pounded his fist on the bed. "I shoulda known Egghead would do that!"

His raised voice woke the girls and Cheese, and the sight of Sonic—awake and very much alive—made Amy gasp. "Sonic!" she cried with joy as she rushed to his side. In an instant she had him in one of her trademark hugs, nearly crushing him as usual. "Thank goodness you're all right!"

"Amy…let go…you're choking me…" he managed to say. She let go, and the hero added with a joking smile, "Metal choked me enough already. My neck is still sore from that tangle with him. Speaking of which…" he looked at Knuckles, Cream, and Big, "Thanks for getting me outta that scrape. If you guys hadn't…"

"Don't mention it," Knuckles said. "Call it payback…you know, for saving our hides. I hope this makes us even; I don't like owing favors."

Sonic chuckled. "It sure does, Knux. It sure does."

Suddenly Froggy, who had hopped onto the windowsill, started croaking in a frantic tone, and Big stood up to see what was the matter. He turned back with a worried expression. "Fat guy and robot are outside," he whispered to them as if the visitors could hear him.

Before anyone could stop him, Sonic kicked his blanket off and stood upright. He wobbled a bit but remained standing, and he grinned at his accomplishment. Then, with his friends behind him, he stepped out onto the porch of the hut. As soon as he spotted Eggman and Metal Sonic hidden in some brush, he called out, "I know you're there, Egghead; come out!"

Their cover blown, the pair trudged out of their hiding place. The doctor was muttering something under his breath, and Metal was silent, his glare at Sonic speaking his thoughts for him. For a while they just stood there, the archenemies staring at the blue hedgehog, and then Eggman sneered, "I'm surprised you're still standing, Sonic. You seemed far too gone to be saved when I saw you being carried inside."

Sonic's face split into his cocky trademark grin. "You know what I say, Egghead: I die hard. I was lucky this time; I had my friends to help me fight back. I guess it's a good thing I went after them first instead of looking for it by myself!"

"Don't feed us that silly sermon about heroes and their duties!" Eggman spat. "You're right about being lucky this round! But your luck will run out one day! And when it does…"

"We will be there to defeat you," Metal finished for his master.

Eggman turned his hovership, calling over his shoulder, "I'm not finished with you or your friends! I'll be back with a better plan, and I will win! Farewell for now, Sonic the Hedgehog!" With that last promise of return, the evil genius and Metal Sonic rocketed into the sky above the rainforest and eventually vanished from sight.

Sonic stared after them until he could see them no more, and then he turned to his friends. "I don't think he'll be bothering us any time soon. Like he said, he's probably gonna sit down in his lab and cook up some new plot to bump me off. It could take him weeks."

"You're thinking of taking a vacation, aren't you?" Amy asked.

"Sure, why not? A week or two on a private beach sounds good to me. What about you guys? Wanna come?"

Tails, Amy, Cream, and Big readily jumped to the invitation.

"Sure, Sonic!"

"I could use a tan!"

"Thank you for inviting us, Mr. Sonic!"

"Froggy and I can come! I've been wanting to catch some ocean fish!"

"Sorry, I'm too busy," said Knuckles. Everyone turned and stared at him; soon the girls were giving him puppy-dog eyes, and Sonic simply stared him down with a persuasive grin. Finally he gave in. "All right, all right! I'll go with you guys! But only if I bring the Master Emerald! I will not let it out of my sight!"

"Whatsa matter, Knux? Afraid Rouge will steal it…again?" Sonic teased. The echidna turned beet red in both anger and embarrassment, and everyone started laughing. Eventually the gang headed out from Big's hut and marched through the rainforest, eager for some R&R.

An hour or so later, the six Mobians were relaxing on the secret beach that Sonic had been sunbathing in earlier. Big sat on a rock with Froggy at his side, fishing in a small pool. Amy and Cream were building an elaborate sand castle close by the water. Tails was swimming in the water, using his tails like a motor; Cheese hung tightly onto his back, squealing with delight. Sonic and Knuckles lay in poolside chairs, with the hedgehog wearing a pair of sporty sunglasses.

"Hey Sonic, can I ask you something?" the echidna asked.

"Sure, Knuckles," the hedgehog said without looking at him.

"How in the world can you be so relaxed?"

Sonic sat up and moved his glasses from his eyes onto his forehead. "What do ya mean?"

"You almost died! Shouldn't you be a bit shaken from that close encounter?"

"…Well, I am a little. That was a pretty close race…but I've had other ones like it, like the time on Colony ARK when Eggman trapped me in that capsule with a bomb in it. I guess I'm used to it."

Knux sighed. "I don't know why you keep going when it can be so dangerous."

Sonic was silent for a moment, and then he answered, "The same reason why you guard the Master Emerald 24/7: even if you don't want to and even if there are risks, you've gotta do it—it's your duty."

The Guardian looked at him with understanding. "I see your point."

"But I think I've come out of this twisted race a bit wiser, Knuckles."

"How's that?"

"I have a better sense of what I'm really doing: putting my life on the line to save others instead of myself."

"I hope that means you won't be so cocky when you're fighting."

The heroic hedgehog chuckled. "Not a chance, pal! Not a chance!"

The End

And that's a wrap, folks! Thanks for reading my story, and I hope you all enjoyed it! And I guarantee that there's more where this came from! Until the next fanfic, farewell! (gets on Hoverbike and drives off into the sunset)