Author's note: Hello there and welcome to my latest experiment! This is an AU crossover of sorts, but there will be Sonic characters only. So, if you don't recognize what I'm crossing with, it should still be an interesting read. Any seeming OOCness is not accidental, there is a reason. Please enjoy:D


Tales of Shadows

by Taranea

Chapter 1:

"Please give that screwdriver back, Manic." Tails held out his hand, looking pleadingly at the sneering green hedgehog.

"You need to learn how to get it back yourself, twerp. Hey, Vector! Catch!" The older boy called, throwing the tool through the classroom.

"Please! I bought it from my pocket money! Don't break it!"

"If you don't want us to break it, you better jump a little higher, kid!" the crocodile laughed, holding the screwdriver tantalizingly just out of the young fox' reach.

"Come on, fight for it!" Manic called, yanking on one of the tails of the kit, "Show us you can do some more than just doodling on your so-called blueprints."

"Otherwise…" Vector supplied and the hedgehog opened the window, "...your precious screwthing might just make a trip into the school swimming pool."

"No! I don't want to fight! Please!" Tails was staring up at the two taller boys, his helplessness letting him clench his gloved hands into fists. It was in situations like these that he wished he'd never agreed to skip two grades.

"One…" Manic counted mockingly,

"Two…" Vector continued,

"Cut it, the both of you!"

"Ugh." The crocodile rolled his eyes.

"Fun-prevention patrol has arrived again." Manic grumbled, "Better give him back that screwdriver before she bites our heads off."

"Yeah. She'd probably nibble us to death." Vector snorted, before tossing the screwdriver into the general direction of the rabbit girl that had just arrived and was now glaring at both of them.

"We could distract her with a carrot," the green hedgehog suggested. "Or maybe you could try to hit on her, Vec."

"…you're such an idiot, Manic."

"You're both idiots! Leave him alone!" the young rabbit hissed, pushing past them and handing the screwdriver back to its owner.

"Thanks, Cream," Tails said, gladly pocketing the thing again.

"I don't get why you don't fight back, Tails!" his friend huffed, "They aren't half as gutsy as they think they are when you get down to it."

"Not in front of you, they're not," the fox replied, a small smile tugging at his lips.

"Tails!"

The amber vulpine shrugged. "There's worse than them."

xxx

"…and if you ever show up without lunch money again, we'll break every single bone in your body! Tomorrow you'd better have five times the amount. Interest, you know? Freak…"

The huge, white-furred jackal kicked the small fox lying on the ground one final time, spitting on the cement before finally turning around to his gang. "Right. We're leaving."

Tails was cringing at the pain in his belly and writhing, but managed to lift his bruised head before the group had managed to get too far.

"But I don't have that kind of money! Please Raker, my uncle's shop doesn't make that much!"

The leader stopped in his tracks and returned again, where he squatted down next to the prone form and lifted him painfully by the fur strands on top of his head. His sharp carnivore teeth leered at Tails in a wolfish smile.

"Then, Prower, we'll set fire to that precious shop and take the heat of the flames as payment...and then the insurance money. All because you didn't want to pay us, now WOULDN'T THAT BE NICE!"

Raker roared that last part, spittle landing on the fox' face as his ears flattened themselves at the volume. Tails whimpered.

"Good." Raker's voice was velvet again, sounding as smooth as a dagger cutting through skin and almost as comforting.

The jackal let the body slump to the ground as he moved to join his group once more, who whooped and cheered. Raker's already broad chest seemed to swell even more for a few moments... until he abruptly bellowed them into silence, sending the smaller youths staggering, just for the fun of it. When they had vanished around the corner, Tails sat up again, sighing and trying not to cry.

"Tails!"

His head whipped around to see a young girl hurrying towards him.

"Hey, Cream…"

"Oh no, who beat you up this time?! Tails, you have to go to the police or something…!"

The rabbit had knelt down next to him and was now cradling his abused form in her arms. Outside of school her chao Cheese was also with her, fluttering around them anxiously. "Don't let them walk all over you! You're worth so much more than that." Her words were soothing and well-meant and Tails smiled. Cream was usually his champion at school who defended him with a razor-sharp tongue and wit to match it against any snide remarks and bullies…but even his best friend (or rather his only friend) couldn't be with him everywhere. And the white Jackal, who was four years older than even the boys in his grade, probably wouldn't really be intimidated by her, either. Rabbit stew, anyone? No, he had to leave her out of this.

"Thanks, Cream. But somehow Raker and his gang don't see it that way."

"It was those jerks?! From our school? That's it! We're going to speak to the headmaster right now!" Cream was working herself up as she collected Tails' strewn belongings and put them back into his school bag, the small Chao helping her.

The fox hung his head.

"No, that just might make it worse…and besides, a guy should be able to stand up for himself, right? At least that's what Manic always says...you shouldn't be protecting me." he gave her a sad smile as she sat down next to him again, "Guess I'm not much of a guy, huh?"

"Nonsense." Cream's voice was firm. "You just need some more time. And until then, I'll be there for you," she said, standing up again and proffering him a hand which Tails took gladly, even as he was slightly blushing that he had to be defended by a girl.

A pretty girl.

Actually, he even had a slight crush on Cream, but there was no way she'd ever reciprocate that love… He sighed again.

"Don't listen to that idiot green hedgehog either, he's nothing but trouble…" she muttered on as she and Cheese helped him back into an upright position, supporting his weight slightly as his left leg wouldn't stand quite right.

"Manic and Vector aren't that bad…" he defended weakly, only to be immediately cut off by the rabbit.

"They are! They're always picking on you, too!"

"Chao!"

Yeah, but they at least don't beat me up, Tails thought as they made their way towards his home.

Getting picked on was sort of his job at school. He was weak, he was small and he was a nerd, always tinkering with some sort of machinery or mechanical toy. And if that wouldn't have been enough, he was a mutant as well. No idea why. No one else in his family had two tails, although he had to admit that at least his uncle was slightly nerdy, too.

"Right, here we are," Cream said as they stood before Tails' house, which was part living apartment, part magic and novelty shop. "Try to take a hot bath for your body so you won't be sore tomorrow, okay?" the rabbit asked him, concern showing on her face. "And please say hi to Merlin for me and Cheese."

Tails nodded. "Sure. He'll be pleased to hear from you."

Cream smiled. "See you tomorrow, then. And then we'll try to figure something out to do about those bullies."

"Chao chao!"

"Uh-huh. Yeah," he replied as he waved her goodbye, although his tone didn't carry much conviction. With hanging head and dragging tails he entered his home, the bell above the door jingling as he pushed it open.

"Welcome to Merlin's Magic shop, how can I…holy Walkers, Miles!"

"Hi, uncle Merlin…"

"Whatever happened to you!" The elderly fox hastened from behind the counter and beheld his nephew with increasing alarm as he became aware of how bad the young fox looked. The fur on one side was caked with the dirt of the streets and one cheek was swollen, while a small trickle of blood emanated from both his mouth and the nose. The kit's bag sported a huge tear that looked as if someone with sharpened claws had slashed it. Tails couldn't even meet his uncle's eyes.

"I fell."

"You what?" Merlin pushed both of his fists into his hip "Miles, I wouldn't even bet my old overalls on that," he said, indicating the fir-tree green dungarees he wore with a swipe of his hand.

"I fell." Tails repeated, now beginning to sound stubborn. "And don't call me like that. My name is 'Tails'."

"Your name is-"

"No! It's Tails!" The young fox was suddenly shouting now, the subdued anger at his own helplessness finally overwhelming him, "Why did my parents give me that stupid name anyway?! Was I born underneath a traffic sign, or what?!" he yelled, tears beginning to show in his eyes, "My name is nothing but a joke! I bet that's also why everyone's picking on me and threatening me and-" he broke off and raced upstairs sobbing, leaving his school bag as well as a shocked and saddened old fox behind.

xxx

Later, lying on his bed, Tails had calmed himself a little. He had not meant to yell at Merlin – since his real dad, the military commander Amadeus Prower, was almost never at home, the older fox had become something of a father-figure for him, even if it sometimes was hard to have respect for the aged vulpine…

Merlin's past was somewhat of a mystery for Tails, but he had pieced together that his uncle had apparently been a party magician of some sort. He was still quite flexible and quick with his fingers – a talent the two-tail had inherited, even if he used it for other ends – but didn't give any performances any more. Right now he just ran his shop and looked after Tails while his parents were busy.

And right now he was also peeking through the key hole in the young fox' door and wondering whether he should come in.

Merlin raised one hand to knock. It wavered there in the air for a few seconds, undecided, but then his courage vanished and he let it sink again.

He's being bullied and he's trying to hide it. And I bet they're taking his money, too.

Merlin was everything but stupid. He had seen how often Tails came home hungry. He had seen how often his nephew returned with bruises. And just now he had also seen how the kit had smashed his piggy bank and shoved the entire money into his purse.

The older fox sighed. He knew himself about the dynamics of bullying and how bad the problem was at Tails' school, the only one in town they could afford for the kit.

Don't waste your savings on them, Miles, he thought.

Let your uncle do that for you.

Raising the school bag he had carried with him, he opened it and put an envelope inside that contained his entire takings from the day.

I hope that helps. May it buy you some peace from them.

Silently putting the school bag down in front of the door, Merlin went downwards again, praying that his nephew would find a way to solve his problems.

He lacks some bigger, stronger friend that would look out for him and teach him some things. And even if that Cream girl -is- pretty cute, she's not quite what my nephew needs.

Tails' ears flicked upwards as he thought he heard steps descending the stairs. Had someone come up and then went down again? But why?

The young fox shrugged and dismissed the thought, instead putting the purse with his collected savings on his desk where he wouldn't forget it in the morning. It stung in his chest when he thought about all the things he would have been able to buy with that instead of giving it to Raker, but it couldn't be helped.

"I guess I'm just not a hero like you, huh, Sonic?"

To be continued...


Wait, didn't that summary say Sonic isn't there? Is that fox kit hallucinating?

I'm really interested in your opinion and feedback here, and also whether one or two might have noticed the series I'm crossing with. ;)

The loveable bastard Raker, of course, is from the 'Secrets of the Emeralds' Sonic series and belongs to the amazing writer JudasFm, who very kindly permitted me the use of him and his kid brother Bait. :-)

Next chapter is going to be uploaded soon - either before or after the next installment of my SatsR adaption, and anyone not wanting to wait that long is hereby invited to check out 'Five Things That Never Happened' where you'll see yet another alternate version of Tails, just a tiny bit similar to this. :P

Please read and review!