Disclaimer: Sonic, Sally, et al are property of SEGA and DiC. I have nothing to do with Archie Comics.
A fire snapped and crackled in Knothole village. Around it sat the Freedom Fighters—Antoine, Bunnie, Rotor, Sally, Sonic. Tails had joined them. The night's mission had been a modest success. They'd had to stop before inflicting too much damage, but they'd stretched Robotnik's forces again and forced a change in his policies. It was just enough of a victory to feel good about.
Now they relaxed around the fire in the middle of the sleeping village, winding down from the tension and alertness, letting the adrenaline fade from their systems. They laughed as Sonic pantomimed an Antoine panic attack and Sally countered with describing how Sonic had gotten lost in the confusion. That got a jovial argument started about whether or not Sonic could get lost. (Final vote: Lost-2, Never Lost-3, one abstention.)
Bunnie chuckled. "Ah guess we all know what sugar-hog would use his life-wish on."
"Life-wish?" asked Tails. "What's that?"
"I'm with Tails," said Sonic.
Bunnie sighed. "Don't tell me y'all nevuh heard of a life-wish before."
They glanced at each other. "Alright, we won't tell you."
"It's somethin' mah folks always used to talk about. If you're a good person, an' you're patient an' pure of heart, then you can get one wish answered. It has to be about you, though, can't be somethin' like "I wanna rule the world"… just somethin' about yourself, or your life, or someone you know. One wish per life-time, so don' mess it up."
"That so?" said Sonic. "Well, you started it, Bunnie. What's your life-wish?"
"Hey, wait a minute!" she said. "Ah asked you first!"
"Not cool." Sonic leaned back, all eyes focused on him. He laughed. "Seems like a waste of a wish, though. What would I wish for?"
"A smaller ego?" Sally suggested. Laughter.
"C'mon, Sal, you know you love it. Seriously, what would I wish for? I'm the fastest thing alive. I live how I wanna, do what I wanna, fight Buttnik cause I wanna… how can you change perfection?"
"You could wish that you beat him for good next time."
No one was sure who'd said it; it didn't really matter. Uneasy silence settled around the campfire. "But I don't wanna wish for that," Sonic said, softly. "I want to beat him on my terms. I want… I guess, I kinda don't want it to end, just yet. I feel like—like this is the best part of my life, like this is what I'm really meant to do. This is why I live, to kick bot butt. If it all ends tomorrow… what am I supposed to do?"
Sally leaned towards him. "You could wish for something to do after. Some new purpose."
Sonic shook his head. "Can't wish for that. That's gotta come from inside." Then he shook much faster, as if getting back on track; a smile popped onto his face. "But hey, I answered yours, Bunnie. You answer mine! What's your life-wish?"
"Aw, shucks. Ah mean, Ah keep thinkin' it's kinda selfish of me to want this wish. An' it doesn't seem right for me to wish it when Ah might get it anyway in a few years."
"This is your wish, Bunnie," said Tails. "You don't have to feel bad about it."
She grinned. "Ah wish I could have a little brother like you, Tails."
They laughed; Tails smiled the sort of smile that squiggles up your face and warms your heart. "Nah, fun as that'd be, that ain't mah wish. Mah wish… I wanna be de-Roboticised." She rubbed her metal shoulder with her flesh hand. "I want to run in the big field an' feel the grass 'tween mah toes. I wanna know it's there 'cause I feel it, not 'cause some orn'ry balance servo tells me."
Sally applauded. "That's the way, Bunnie."
"What's wrong with balance servos?" said Rotor, sounding hurt.
"An' after that, I want to wear mah sundresses again! Don't laugh at it," she said with humorous indignity. "Ah want to sit on mah porch in a rockin' chair with a lemonade, wearin' a sundress an' a big ol' wide-brimmed hat, listenin' to gossip an' passin' the time."
"Bunnie, you do most of that anyway," said Rotor. "And you don't need to be de-Roboticised to do it."
"Well that's mah wish an' I'm stickin' to it!" said Bunnie. "An' now guess who just asked to tell his life-wish next?"
"Walked into that one, Rotor!" teased Sonic.
Rotor sighed. "I guess I did. Well… I guess I'm the opposite of Sonic. There're so many things I could wish for, I don't know what I'd want most."
"Wish for ze cleaner working place," said Antoine.
"A way to keep the tool shed clean," said Tails.
"Another tool shed," said Sonic.
Rotor put his hand to his face, deep in thought; the crowd settled down to wait and listen. Rotor took a deep breath, opened his eyes, and said, "I want another hour in the day."
No one responded; finally Sonic managed a "Say what?"
"I want another hour in the day," Rotor repeated firmly. "There's just so much to do, so many things to work on, plus the raids we go on—and the thing that loses out the most is my sleep! So I want another hour in the day so I can sleep more."
"Um, Rotor," said Antoine, "I am tinking dat, eef it works as Mademoiselle Bunnie has said, zen zat is asking for a bit much too."
"Oh," said Rotor, becoming downcast. "In that case, I don't know, I wish that the rest of you get your wishes."
"That's sweet, sugar!" said Bunnie, extending an arm around him to try and comfort him.
"After that, my wish sounds pretty doable," said Tails.
"Fire away, li'l bro," said Sonic.
"I wanna see my parents," Tails said. "Or even just know who they were," he added, trying to fill the sudden silence.
"You don't have to wish for that," said Sally.
"Yeah," said Sonic. "We're working on it, we'll get that."
"I know you're doing your best," said Tails. "It's just… well… maybe if I wished for it… it'd happen sooner, or in a better way."
"Well, sugar, that's what you really want, right?" said Bunnie.
"Yeah," said Tails.
Bunnie grinned. "Well then, it's your wish, an' you don't have to feel bad 'bout it."
"Agh! Beat me to it!" complained Sonic, slapping a hand to his face. Tails giggled. "But what's with all this serious stuff?" Sonic said. "C'mon, there's gotta be something else you want. And I'm sayin' right now: You're not allowed to say anything uncool."
Tails smiled as wide as he could manage. "I wanna be as fast as you, Sonic!"
"Now THAT, Tails, is a way-past-cool wish."
Groans came from around the fire.
Antoine stood, straightening his uniform purely for effect. "Well, it seems to be being ze turn of moi, and so I will grace you with the knowing of my wish."
Sonic made a raspberry noise. Tails laughed. Antoine scowled.
"As I was saying… my wish is very impertinentness, but it is mine, and eet is just a wish, no? Well, my great wish ees nothing more zan being able to serve ze preencess all my living."
Sonic groaned in exaggerated fashion. "Man, I knew he was comin' round to that. I'm checkin' out, see everyone later!"
He was gone before anyone could object. "Hey," said Rotor, puzzled. "Where'd Sally go, anyway?"
No one had seen her leave.
Sally stood on the bridge out of Knothole, resting against the railing, watching the water flow by. The stream was never big enough or swift enough to babble properly; it barely gurgled against the rocks of the streambed.
'Where did those rocks come from?' Sally mused. 'And where are they going? How long did they take to get here? Starting at the top of some mountain that probably doesn't exist anymore, tumbling all the way here over thousands of years… will, say, THAT rock ever get where it's going? Or is it going to erode along the way, vanishing into bits too small to see?'
"You're spacin' out again, Sal."
Sally jumped a bit at Sonic's voice. "Oh, just you. Hmph. Guess I need more rest," she said.
"I won't say you don't," Sonic said, taking a place beside her. He looked out into the stream with her, trying to look where she was looking. It didn't seem possible; Sally had this way of looking through things to a place beyond her surroundings.
"What are you looking at?" he whispered.
"Time," she answered, as if that was enough.
Sonic looked and looked, but he didn't see anything that looked like time. As the fastest thing alive he considered himself a bit of an authority on the matter of time, but he'd never seen it—it was internal, a part of him he could feel instinctively.
He fidgeted. "How long are you gonna stay here?"
"I don't know."
"It's too dark to really see anything."
Sonic tapped his foot.
"You know I hate it when you do that, Sonic."
He stopped and folded his arms.
"If you have something to say, just say it."
"Why'd you skip out?"
Sally seemed to draw back into herself; she composed her expression, then turned to Sonic. "What?" she asked.
He gestured over his shoulder. "Back there. You skipped out on the campfire. Didn't even give us a debrief on the mission."
"Oh… I just…" she turned away.
"It wasn't Tails' wish, was it?"
"No, not that. It's just—I knew that if I stayed, you guys would ask me about my wish. I knew you'd never let met get away with not saying it."
"If you knew that, why'd you make me chase you out here?" Sonic said impatiently. "Wasted both our time."
"I was embarrassed," she said.
"Sal, you don't get embarrassed easy."
"It can't be that bad."
After some delay, she managed, "It's not important."
"Stop looking away from me and answer the question."
Sally sighed and looked back at Sonic. "My wish… would be to be a normal girl," she said.
Sonic blinked in surprise. Sally turned away quickly, not wanting to face him. "I've thought about it, sometimes. Fantasies, you'd call them. What it would be like to just be normal."
"Well, what would it be like?" he asked, confused.
She sighed. "I want to have just a normal life. A mother and a father, and maybe a sister, living in the same house. School. Going to school, friends there, nothing more life-threatening than the occasional test… you know, the sort of thing we read about in stories. The sort of thing that's… normal. Not with a father in another dimension, and a dead mother, and a…" she gestured vaguely, though Sonic knew she was pointing at Robotropolis.
"That's your wish?"
She sighed, putting her hands atop the rail and her chin atop her hands. "Right now it is, anyway." She sounded exhausted.
There was a long silence, which Sonic punctuated with a snort. "Waste of a wish," he said. "Sal, you couldn't be normal if you tried."
"Why's that?" she said, head and hackles rising alike.
"'Cause you're more than that," he said, turning to the creek to avoid her temper. He pointed in the same direction she had. "Would you sit on your hands with that out there? Could ya? I don't think so."
She sighed, the only sound other than the creek streaming past. A small, non-sentient bird flew away from the area, as if embarrassed to be watching.
"I know I couldn't," he said. "And if I know anything about you, you couldn't, either."
"I guess you're right," she said, turning to face the same direction. She put her elbows on the rail.
"Heck," Sonic said, "even if there weren't any Robuttnik, you wouldn't be normal. I thought Bunnie said the rule was you couldn't change too much."
Sally gave a single laugh. "I'm that strange, huh? Too far from normal?"
Sonic grinned. "Sal, I'm a blue hedgehog who runs faster than sound, and let me tell ya, you are one weird girl."
She shook her head, one of her smaller I'm-trying-not-to smiles on her face. "I'll be sure to take that for what it's worth."
The words trailed away, leaving a void between them. Back in the village they'd put the fire out. The last of the effective light was gone, with the sky blocked by Knothole's protective evergreens. Darkness enveloped them, concealing their features; Sonic could feel Sally's presence more than he could see her.
Sonic couldn't help but wonder what Sally was thinking. He wiggled his toes inside his shoes as the silence wore on. He hated this in her; it was something she'd picked up from Rosie. Sometimes, Rosie would say to him, you say more when you don't talk. He'd never believed a word of it.
He managed a casual laugh. "Anyway, where would that stick me?" he said. "If you were normal, where'd I be?"
She looked at him, startled; he could feel her eyes but couldn't see her expression. "What's that supposed to mean?" she asked, quietly.
"Forget it," he said, regretting his words. "Doesn't mean anything."
"So my wish bothers you?" she said, ignoring him. "You want me to be around, like I am, for your sake?"
Sonic was flustered and suddenly thankful for the poor light. "Well, that's not what I…"
"I could deal with that."
Sonic was stopped in mid-denial.
He saw, vaguely, her nodding to herself. "Yes. That's not a bad reason." She turned fully and began to walk back towards the village.
Sonic made no effort to follow, and instead looked back into the creek where Sally had said she was looking at time. It was more opaque than ever. He turned in the direction she'd gone. "Hey, Sal! Wait up!"
"Don't worry," she said mildly. "I'll still be here."
In a moment he was beside her. "So," he said, "I guess you'll need a new wish."
"Oh, that," she said. Sonic could swear he heard her smile. "Yes, I've got a new one."
Sonic didn't push her. He was blushing and he didn't know why.
They parted for their own huts without saying more. Knothole slept.