A/N: I don't even know where this sprung from, it just attacked my brain and started writing itself.

Who do you think it is?

Disclaimer: I don't own Shadow, he's copyright SEGA and Sonic Team. I did, however, write this fanfiction, so don't steal it!

The Highest Price

"One has to pay dearly for immortality; one has to die several times while one is still alive." Friedrich Nietzsche

Not mortal, not subject to dying or death; remembered or celebrated through all time; not liable to perish or decay; perpetual; lasting; constant; a person of enduring fame; undying.

Immortal.

Such a blessed thing, when it came to him. She would never have to worry about him dying; he would simply come back to life seconds later and continue on.

The best thing was, there was no way to fix it. He was stuck that way, forever. It was selfish of her, but she couldn't help but feel relieved. Others had to worry about the ones they loved dying; she didn't.

She would never have to worry about him collapsing in a bloody heap to forever leave her. No dramatic confession would be forced from her. No tearful "I love you, please don't leave me." No, he would simply close his eyes and wake up a couple minutes later.

And then it would be ever so awkward.

He was flawed perfection, from the tips of his black-furred ears all the way down to his jetshoes, and everything in between. The piercing crimson eyes that constantly smoldered, the strong legs, the red stripes, the splash of white fur, the gleaming gold bracelets that restrained a power stronger than any human could ever imagine.

It had taken quite a while for them to even establish a friendship; he wasn't very receptive. She couldn't remember the exact day when they finally gotten along. Nor could she remember when that fine line blurred and she realized that she had foolishly crossed it, while he stood behind it, gazing at the beautiful ghost that would always keep his heart.

It never nagged at her too much. Shadow loved Maria, and that was fine. After all, Maria was…well, his everything, in the entire sense of the word. His first friend, his only friend, his teacher, his family, his love, his life.

So, she rationalized, out of respect for Maria, she would never tell him how she felt. She wouldn't be the cliché drama girl in every redundant love story. She would watch and be relieved that it was a situation she'd never be forced into.

And it was all well and good until she found that immortality had another plague besides outliving all of your friends.

By then, of course, it was too late to change a thing.

First was the initial shock that anything had been able to even hit Shadow. He was the Ultimate Life Form. The closest he'd ever gotten to death was falling through the atmosphere, but everyone knew that had been a fluke.

But still, there he was, just…lying there. Her brain didn't register that fact at first. No, it simply waited for him to get back up with an absolutely murderous look in his eyes.

When he didn't, it shifted gears. Oh, he's regenerating. Okay. Just a couple of minutes.

Then it simply went numb. She refused to believe that he was anything other than injured. That kind of stuff just didn't happen to him. He was way too fast, way too smart. No way. It just wasn't plausible.

Was she kneeling next to him? When had she moved? What was this weight, why was everything so far away? Where did this hole in her chest suddenly come from? Not a tangible hole, like his, but one far more painful. It ached and writhed and throbbed in pain, silently, agonizingly.

Oh, he was breathing. See, he wasn't dead, so why didn't the hurt go away? Hurthurthurt! It hadn't ached this much when Papa and Uncle died, even when Nana and Auntie seemed so sad, even when her favorite cousin's cries rang out in the church both times, wailing for his grandfather and his father. Not even when she saw a silent tear roll down her father's masked face as he silently grieved for precious in-laws. Acheacheachegoawaygoawaygoaway…

He was breathing. It was shallow, ragged, and desperate, but it was breathing. He was filling his lungs with air and oh good, the blood stopped flowing too.

Was it raining? Stupid rain was getting on his face, he didn't need that. She assumed the numb chill was from the weather. It had to be cold, yes. It didn't matter that the sun shone brilliantly in the endless sky or that she had been sweating all day. The weather was cold and rainy.

Crimson eyes shifted over to her, gazed straight into her and almost kicked that door wide open. Something spasmed across his face. Pain? Did it really hurt? No…not pain. Grief? Did he see Maria? No.

"Don't cry, stupid."

It was wheezed and barely audible, but it was there, because moments later his eyes screwed up in pain but remained on her determinedly.

Helovesmehelovesmenothelovesmehelovesmenothelovesmehelovesmenot…

Crying? She wasn't crying: That was absurd. He was going to be just fine, he couldn't die, so why would she be crying?

Then she noticed that his image blurred, and something hot and wet rolled down her cheek and dripped off her chin onto his nose. She was crying. The tears were rolling down her face; the dam had been broken. She scrubbed her face. She was being stupid. He would be fine.

Immortal.

And thank god for that.

And then oh no.

"No," she choked. "No, no, no, no!"

"Don't," he rasped in response.

It couldn't happen, it wouldn't. But here she was, kneeling beside his failing body, despair seeping from her every pore, and there was every damn eye to bear witness, but none of them were dry either. Kneeling beside him, crying, despair. She knew what would come next, and it wasn't fair. He was never supposed to know, she would never have to worry about this, that's why it was so damn good that he was immortal!! Because she was too afraid to ruin the perfect life that had been laid out before her.

Here it comes, building up in her stomach, rolling upward, building up power, until she couldn't see him again through all of the tears, still coming thick and fast, couldn't feel anything but pain. And then it fell off her lips. Not barely audible like in the clichéd scenes, either, but loud and clear, bypassing the tumor of grief in her throat.

I love you. Please don't leave me.

Eyes widened and filled with surprise. Crap, oh crap, when he woke up again it was going to be so damn awkward.

Love me? he thought through a haze. Love….me? Shelovesme. What?

Stupid, stupid, why didn't you say so before? Everything was fading now. He grasped at it with all of his might; the wound was so bad. No, no. Not the smiles, the rolled eyes, the yelling, the banter, the friendship.

Sunny days spent inside, rainy days spent walking, snowy days spent staying away from the barrage of damn stupid snowballs. Hold on, hold on, don'tletgodon'tforget!

After all the death he had inflicted. All the souls lost, the bodies falling at his feet, and how he had grieved for none but the beauty who gazed at him sadly, oh-so, sadly. The monster he repressed, the monster he was.

I love you.

Please don't leave me.

Why didn't you say so? Maybe, maybe, maybe. But you didn't…stupid.

"Thank you," Shadow sighed, bliss washing across his face.

And then his eyes closed.

They opened later in a hospital. She hadn't left his side for weeks.

So damn awkward.

But not running the risk had cost her something even greater. Well, she finally said it. We'll see where it goes.

But for now, he was awake, oh thank any power out there, he was awake and alive and breathing and staring at her in confusion.

"Shadow," she sighed. It was happy and relieved, and even endearing.

He was struggling to form something in his mind, but that was fine; he had only just woken up. She waited patiently. His lips moved soundlessly, then a small sound sprung from the back of his throat.

"…who are you?"

And she hated his immortality with every fiber of her being as her world fell apart.