Disclaimer: I don't own Manic, I don't own Sonic, I don't own Sonia, and nor do I own Sega or anything remotely connected. Nor do I own the (English!) lyrics for Aslan's Dream, that honor belongs to Gackt. All I own is my warped little ideas about the characters and the fics I write. Therefore if you don't like to see slightly creepy, emotional, dark-sided Manic-then don't read it. Otherwise, enjoy.

Author's Note: To manic the hedeghog, Retrospective, Shelby the Hedgehog, Sakura Courage Solo, Pyro Falkon, Mani Clover, writergurlLW, and incomplete13, I say this- Thank you for your reviews and encouragement. I've been working feverishly on this (not-so-little) fic for a while now, and I hope you'll like the result. In any case, read, enjoy, C&C is always appreciated. To everyone else- I've said it once, I'll say it again: if you don't like Manic like this, then don't read it.


Manic let out a muffled curse as he applied the disinfectant to the gash on his elbow. He'd been careless; he knew better than to be that slow when up against one of his enemies, but he'd gotten cocky and hadn't counted on the bastard making a last-ditch attempt on his life. As such when the hyena had lunged with the dagger the green hedgehog had only had enough time to bring his arm up to block the blow to his head. The fool was dead of course, the thief-prince couldn't allow him to get away, but he knew that in the morning his wound would raise questions.

Right at that instant it was two in the morning and he was lucky he hadn't woken either of his siblings up on his way in. As it was he'd have to scrub his blood off the floor after he was done with his arm. At the thought Manic let out another growled curse and glared at himself in the mirror. "Stupid Hedgehog, really stupid," he grumbled as his yellow eyes flared for a moment in annoyance. In the harsh glare of the bathroom light his eyes almost looked like they were glowing. That wasn't the only thing thrown into view; a couple of scrapes and scars also showed through the fur.

Giving a frustrated sigh he turned his attention back to his left elbow and winced. Somehow he doubted the 'falling off the hoverboard' excuse would work this time. 'Maybe if I were a few years younger and dead it'd work.' The scowl that flickered across his face was well timed as the sting from the disinfectant kicked in again. Frankly the green-furred prince was lucky that his wound wasn't more severe. Had it been a little to the left or right the dagger could have severed a tendon or, even worse, an artery. The idea of bleeding-out didn't appeal to him.

Setting the disinfectant aside, Manic began mopping up the mess with a washrag and looked more carefully at the gash. 'I might be able to get away without stitches. Meh, might as well go clean up the bloody trail.' Stepping out of the bathroom of the van he silently did his work; even more diligently in front of his sister's door to make sure that the blood didn't leave a mark. If a stain were left she'd scream about that more than him being stupid enough to rip his arm open. The green-furred triplet was glad they didn't have a carpet in the "hall". Within moments of completing his task, the van was locked up, all lights were off, and Manic was asleep the instant his head hit the pillow.


"MAAAAANIIIIC!" Sonia screamed. The green hedgehog only twitched his pierced ear in the direction of his door; otherwise he didn't bother responding. "Manic, I know you're in there! Answer this door right now!" Sonic wiggled a finger in one of his own ears to try to stop the ringing brought on by Sonia's shrill pitch.

"Mmf… G'way dude… 's too early," Manic mumbled just barely loud enough to be heard. Sonia didn't go away; quite the opposite in fact. She started pounding on the door with a vengeance.

"MANIC SARASHI HEDGEHOG! Get up and get your tail out here or I'm going in there and doing it for you!"

Ears flat against his head Manic got up, stalked over to his door, and wrenched it open. Carefully keeping his false accent in place he growled, "What did I do now?" Sonia imperiously held up the washcloth with his blood on it- and that was when Manic realized that it was one of hers. They each had their own personal rules that they'd laid out for the other two quite clearly; in order to avoid needless fights they followed those rules. One of Sonia's rules was that they couldn't use her washcloths without asking. 'Oh crap... might as well go for broke on this one.' "…Oh, sis I'm sorry. Kinda took a spill last night." He held up his left arm to prove his point. "I was so out of it that I just grabbed." Was it a stupid and highly unlikely excuse? Yes, but then again he was still a little bit tired from his 'foray' the night before.

"Last night?" Sonia muttered as her eyes locked on the scabbed-over wound. "You went out last night?" Manic nodded. "AND YOU DIDN'T TELL US?!" Sonic winced in the background.

Golden yellow eyes blinked in a false show of early-morning confusion. "I woke up last night and I couldn't get back to sleep. Felt like goin' for a spin and I thought it'd be rude to wake you up." Sonia twitched- 'bad sign.'

Manic came to realize how bad said sign was when his sister seized his wrist and yanked him toward her. His yelp of pain could be considered nothing less than a perfectly natural reaction under the circumstances. "Sonia," he whined while trying to keep the tremble of pain out of his voice, "could you, like, let go? That seriously hurts and I don't think my arm is supposed to be yanked outta socket like that."

Ignoring him briefly she studied the wound, noting the length of it and how deep it had to be. "What happened?" she snapped. Manic shrank back silently; he knew she was concerned for him, but she could be downright frightening sometimes. Ruby red eyes bored into his golden gaze and he tried to unobtrusively rescue his arm from his sister's grip. "What happened Manic? How did this happen?"

"I told you, I took a spill from my hoverboard- it's no big deal."

By now even Sonic was intrigued, and he usually tried to stay out of any arguments his brother and sister had. "You've come home from having a spill before and it didn't look that bad," Sonic stated after he'd gotten his own look at Manic's injury.

Seeing both of them giving him that look Manic pulled back. Gently prying Sonia's hand from his wrist he grumbled, "Okay, okay! I went out last night for a spin, like I said. I got spotted by a 'bot, got shot at and I fell off my board in an alley." Both of his siblings doubted he was telling the whole truth, and there was no way they were going to let it completely slide by any means.

"And?" Sonia's right eyebrow was arched dubiously.

Rubbing his wrist to get back some feeling Manic answered, "I landed on a piece of shrapnel. I managed to ditch the 'bot, but I was kinda light-headed by the time I got back to the van."

"You didn't even think to wake one of us up?!" Oh yeah, Sonia was definitely in 'protective sister' mode.

"I took care of it myself…," he offered weakly.

"You're lucky you aren't dead! You could have bled to death and neither Sonic nor I would have known it until we found your corpse in the morning! Did you even use any antiseptic?"

"I'm NOT that stupid!" Manic snapped. "Besides, I'm the one who grew up on the damn street!"

"You should be in a hospital!"

"Like one would EVER let me in!"

"Don't say that! You're a prince, or have you forgotten?"

"Well I don't look like it and I wouldn't want to!"

"Manic, do you have any idea how deep that is?!"

"Gee, I think I'd know since it's on my arm!" Before Sonia could so much as open her mouth again he slammed the door and stalked back over to his bed.

"Moron!" Sonia screamed before stalking off to be on her own.

All was silent for about ten minutes, and then there was a knock on Manic's door. Sighing in frustration Manic glanced at the door. "What do you want bro?" Sonic slipped into the room, made his way over to his brother's bed and sat down beside him.

"She's just worried about you. You know that, right?"

"I know that, but she didn't have to treat me like I was an idiot. I mean, dude, I know what a bad wound looks like. If I thought I was gonna die without help I would've woke one of you up."

"Good, otherwise I'd have to hurt you." There was a beat, and then Sonic grinned impishly, "You used her rag on purpose, didn't you?"

Manic snorted at him. "As if! You think I want her to rip my head off? I'd rather fly into a wall at Mach 10."

Sonic's grin grew wider. "I can arrange that for you."

"Dude, so not going there right now!"


After Sonia had cooled off Manic hunted her down; which really wasn't that hard to do considering that his empathy was kicking in. There were times where he absolutely loved being able to pick up on others. On finding her Manic calmly walked over and hugged his sister. "Hey sis."

Sonia jumped for a moment, startled due to the fact that she hadn't heard her yellow-eyed brother approach. Glancing at him as he rested his chin on her shoulder she grumbled, "What do you want Manic?"

The most emotional of the triplets blinked his brilliant yellow eyes at her innocently in a near approximation of a puppy dog look. "I have to want something from you when I hug you? Like, when did that happen?"

His sister's response was a very un-ladylike snort that she'd picked up from Sonic. "Since that is your normal habit and has been for a while now."

Manic winced at the 'rich girl' phrasing of her words. Clearly she was still simmering about their disagreement. The puppy eyes increased ten-fold. "Oh c'mon Sonia, don't talk like that. I know you hate me when you talk like that, and that totally makes it harder to say I'm sorry for bein' a jerk."

She gave him a disdainful look, but Manic knew he was getting through to her. He could feel her amusement in his head. All she needed was just the slightest push. The puppy eyes got to a point that can only be called ridiculous. A slow smile crept onto her face and then she laughed. "Alright, alright! You're forgiven! Just stop looking at me like that you idiot."

Manic beamed and hugged her again. "I knew you couldn't stay mad at me." Rolling her eyes Sonia returned the hug.

"Only because you're my brother."

"Yeah right, you couldn't stay mad at me 'cause you so love me. Even if I weren't your bro you'd probably adopt me anyway. I'm just that lovable."

At this point Sonic walked in, and on hearing Manic's comment he snorted. "No, you're just that annoying. You annoy people into loving you, goof."

"Dude, so not cool. Could you like, rub it in my face any more?"

Both Sonic and Sonia smirked simultaneously. "Yes."

"Then don't," Manic grumbled sarcastically, "I don't think my bruised ego could take it."


Manic allowed his siblings to satisfy themselves by making certain his injury was alright. It had been bandaged to prevent infection (after being disinfected again), and he'd been forbidden to drive the hover-van until it healed. Promptly after that he had been shooed off to his room to rest. This left Sonia and Sonic free to talk to each other.

"He's hiding something," Sonic stated to his sister bluntly while leaning on the wall of their 'kitchen'. Sonia sighed and nodded. Neither of them had wanted Manic to know that they were strongly suspicious of the story he'd given them. It was entirely plausible, but both of them highly doubted that he'd 'fallen off the hoverboard'. Sometimes they wondered about his intelligence, true, but they both knew that no one compared to Manic's skills on a hoverboard. He had fallen off before, but every time he did the worst he came out of it with was a couple of scrapes- even if it was over shrapnel.

"It kind of makes you wonder…" Sonia's tone was calm and smooth, yet concerned at the same time. "We're so used to him, but if you think about it we know next to nothing about his past. We've talked freely about our pasts, but Manic…" Her ruby red eyes looked up to meet Sonic's emerald gaze. "…He says almost nothing. All that we know is that he grew up on the street and Farrel adopted him."

Sonic nodded grimly. "Then he's not only hiding how he actually got that wound, but all of what in the hell is going on."

"Sonic, don't curse," Sonia admonished absentmindedly. "The only way I can think of to get any decent answers is to watch him."

The blue furry prince frowned. Spying on either of his siblings didn't sit well with him, but considering the circumstances he had a bad feeling that there wouldn't be much of a choice. "I don't want him to feel like we don't trust him. You know how sensitive he is to that kind of thing Sonia. I can agree to keeping an eye on him, but spying on him is completely out. I'd rather have him come to us than have to find something out in the wrong way."

Sonia's gaze was firm. "And what if he doesn't come to us?"

"…I don't know." Sonic turned away to look out the window. "It's strange, isn't it?"

"How do you mean?"

"Not knowing about each other for most of our lives and then finally meeting up… We don't really know what the others have been through. Sure, you and I have talked, but let's face it- I have no idea what your life must have been like for you. At the same time it's hard for you to relate to me. Manic is on an entirely different level. You were a rich priss," he ignored the frown directed at him, "I was a poor punk, but I had a decent life; and Manic had to grow up stealing for a living."

"Sonic, what are you getting at?"

Green eyes turned to lock on the princess. "What I'm saying is that neither of us knows what it's like living on the streets. Things that we view as distant horrors, Manic might have come face to face with. That might be one reason why he doesn't want to talk. Or…"

"Or what?"

Sonic smiled at her with a slightly sheepish look. "Or it could just be that he's one of those guys that doesn't give out info about himself unless he's directly asked."

His sister's look was one of annoyance. "So, what? Do you just want to hold off until something else pops up?"

"Pretty much," the blue hedgehog beamed. Sonia's response was to roll her eyes for the second time that day. She couldn't get anywhere with brothers like these.


"Invited by the dream that imprisons the long night/ As no one's in the room, I pray to the moon/ Like a flickering light,/ 'If only the ache in my heart would also become small,' I muttered." Manic's voice was clear and pleasant to listen to, though he was singing quietly in his room. Sonia was driving the van and Sonic was either in the 'kitchen' or 'living room' tuning his guitar. Since Manic had nothing else to do, he sang.

The three of them had managed to find another underground gig (no pun intended), and were on their way there. Both his sister and brother wanted to focus on songs without too many drums due to his injury, but Manic wouldn't have any of it. He insisted that 'a small scratch' wasn't going to stop him from 'wailing on the drums' if he wanted to. They may have doubted how smart he was, but both Sonic and Sonia knew when they couldn't win an argument against him. So against their so-called 'better judgment' they were going. Even as quiet as the ride was Manic could hear Sonia going through vocal warm-up exercises as she drove.

"I walk, groping in the dawn/ Bathed in light, your body is scorched in my memory/ Even now, you are here/ 'Etched into my heart, your dim white memory is like ice…'/ Perhaps you were close by but left nothing behind, nothing but shadows/ Those shadows and those little sounds don't form into anything, quietly disappearing." Rather than continuing into the second verse Manic trailed off. Things had been tense for about a week now and he didn't like it. None of them had said anything; although in Manic's case it was admittedly due to keeping his façade in place. The doubt floating around their van made the air seem thick to the thief-prince. The worst of it was knowing that all of that doubt was centered on him.

Had it been possible to barricade his mental walls so he didn't have to 'hear' what Sonia and Sonic were feeling constantly, Manic would have done so in a heartbeat. 'As if I'll ever have that kind of luck!' He was just glad that he hadn't had an 'attack of empathy' in a very long while. Shaking the thought off he tuned into Sonic first; good and ready to go, a little nervous as usual, and- something about food? Manic snorted, that was typical Sonic-thought all the way. Shrugging it off, he turned his attention to Sonia; calm and smooth, focused on singing the scales and driving, definitely not going over potholes like Manic would, and worried about Manic.

The green hedgehog frowned at Sonia's flickering emotions and mental images. Had he been able to pick up on actual words her thoughts would most likely have been even more disturbing to him. It was when he caught the quick flash of suspicion and the accompanying image that went with it that his eyes went wide. She was afraid that he'd been raped?! "Where in the hell did that come from?" To say the least he backed out of his sister's mind as fast as he possibly could without letting her feel him there. "Oh man… Something tells me that my life just got ten times harder…"


Manic rolled his eyes for what felt like the fiftieth time as he was getting his drums into place. "Dudes, I am telling you I can totally handle it. I could do this in my sleep. It's not like I'm some kind of gimp or anything, so would ya just knock it off?" This comment was directed at his quietly fretting siblings, who kept on trying to help him despite his rebuffs.

Sonic frowned at him briefly, "You're sure?"

"Sure I'm sure."

"Manic, are you sure you aren't going to hurt yourself?" Sonia's concern was beginning to make said green hedgehog want to gag.

"Dude, I'm fine. I am like, SO totally on top of this. So just please, let it go." Yellow eyes closed as the thief-prince let out a sigh of relief when his siblings finally gave up. His pause was brief as Sonic and Sonia went back to their respectful places to do their own last-minute adjustments; then he went back to wrestling his bass drum into position. Within moments his drums were set up to perfection and he took his place behind them. The 'concert' was on.

The three of them ranged through several songs, pandering to their crowd. As Sonia had insisted during preparation, they played a little bit of everything. The true shining moment was the song that gave them each a solo. Though he rarely admitted it out loud, it was one of Manic's favorites. Despite how much he was enjoying the music, Manic was also empathically scanning the crowd.

It was a habit of his, and a well-earned one. There were at least a few occasions it had saved the lives of his siblings and himself. What he found was for the most part enjoyment, but the occasional odd flicker of worry. About what or who he wasn't sure, but it carried connotations that whatever it was; was often considered a threat. 'I'll have to keep my ears open when we rest and close up.'

Finally they came to their break. Manic gratefully slipped off the stage and over to the bar to get some water. Plopping himself in a seat he seized upon the water when it was handed to him and perked up his ears: Time to get some information. Without the musicians playing people were more willing to talk. Sure enough within minutes conversation was in full swing and Manic was soaking it in. The voices at normal volume he paid little attention to; they had nothing to hide. It was the whispers that were almost drowned out that he was listening for.

One word caught his ear, and he heard it enough times to make him wary. Different voices in different areas of the club were muttering "Kleptomaniac" intermittently. 'That explains the "threat" feeling.' He listened more carefully and learned that there was news that he was in the area, not that somebody had recognized him. A mental sigh of relief was all that Manic allowed himself. It would not do for his secret to be announced to the world- especially within hearing distance of Sonic and Sonia.

Speaking of said hedgehogs, he did a quick scan of the two of them and stopped. Sonic had heard the whispers of "Kleptomaniac" and was telling Sonia. 'NOT good!' He could read the curiosity of the both of them, and he knew it was only a matter of time before they started asking people. The empathic thief-prince did the only thing he could; he downed his water and went hunting for his siblings to distract them. Calmly he walked over to where the two of them were huddled, looped his arms suddenly about their shoulders and grinned. "Hiya bro, sis. What'cha up to?"

Sonia glared at him. "I really wish you'd stop sneaking up on us like that! It gets annoying fast and I don't appreciate it." Sonic's sentiments were similar.

Manic's grin just became more pronounced at having fully succeeded in startling his brother and sister. "Dude, that's not an answer, but whatever. Was that a tight set or what?"

Sonic snorted at him before mangling his bangs. "You seriously zoned out into the music, didn't you?"

"What can I say? When the drums are calling…," his grin took on his typical 'I know something you don't know' look. "…Well, you know what I mean."

Their sister rolled her brilliant red eyes again. "Back to the topic at hand, Sonic what were you saying about 'Kleptomaniac'?"

A flicker of irritation flashed through yellow eyes for less than a second. 'Damn. Not distracting enough. If this keeps up I'm going to have to start creating a few lies.' "Dude, say what?"

The blue hedgehog frowned slightly. "I'm not sure if you've heard it, but people here have been muttering off and on about some guy called 'Kleptomaniac'. From what I've been overhearing it doesn't sound too good."

"Like what?" Manic jumped in before his sister could, hoping that he could find some way to steer the conversation in a different direction.

"I can't be too sure, but from what I've been hearing it sounds like he might be an assassin or something."

Sonia's look became alarmed. "If that's true then we might have to worry about him coming after us." The thought and emotions coming from her were so askew from what Manic knew as reality that it threw him off. His façade slipped by just the barest fraction as he let out a quick snort of laughter. He knew the moment it happened that it was a mistake, and that it was going to be nearly impossible for him to change the subject.

Both of his siblings turned to look at him with vague expressions of surprise and reproach. Manic's ears went back as he shrank away from them a little. "Look, uh… Sorry dudes… I didn't mean to laugh at you… it's just that, well, y'know, Kleptomaniac's kinda well known of on the street." He instantly had their attention. At least now he could control a little of what they heard.

"You know about Kleptomaniac?" Sonia demanded. The thief-prince nodded. "How much do you know?"

Glancing around Manic waved her off. "Look, can we not talk about this here? It's like, so not the sort of thing you'd want to talk about in front of people." Sonia's look was grim, and for a moment the green hedgehog was worried that she wouldn't drop it.

Sonic solved that potential problem with his next words. "Alright, we'll let it go for now," he looked pointedly at their sister, "but after we're done here and on our way, you get to explain." Sonia stood down and Manic noted with a mental sigh of relief that she was willing to let it wait.

Nodding at the two of them, Manic turned and started heading for the stage. "Alright, deal. Until then let's get through our second set and get outta here." The two of them followed silently; maybe later they could get some decent answers.


The rest of the concert had gone off without a hitch, as had packing up and leaving after receiving their pay for the night. They still had a couple of nights left to go at the club, but all three preferred to stay with their van. It didn't take too long after they got in the door and had put everything away for two sets of eyes, red and green, to lock on Manic. 'Looks like there's no way for me to worm my way out of this one.' Letting out a sigh he dropped into a seat and met their looks evenly. "Just in case, could you lock the door? It's a seriously bad thing for peeps to overhear stuff about Kleptomaniac. It gets some really bad attention if you know what I mean."

Sonic considered his brother for a moment before nodding briefly and retreating to do as Manic requested. When he returned he dropped into a seat of his own and asked, "So… What do you know?" Sonia remained standing as she eyed Manic warily.

"Kleptomaniac's like a legend on the street. He's a pretty bad dude and nobody- I mean nobody wants him pissed at them. He's got this reputation for killing off peeps that he thinks have crossed the line, with none of them surviving for long when he's got his sights locked on them. From what I've heard it's like he's a demon- when he plans on killing someone they die; no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Same goes for peeps tryin' to kill him- they can't."

Both Sonic and Sonia stared at Manic. Finally their sister spoke up, albeit a little hesitantly. "If you know all that, then why aren't you worried?"

Manic's response was a derisive snort. "Sis, he might have that rep, but peeps keep on forgetting one thing: in the known track-record of everyone the dude has killed only bastards and creeps end up dead. Since none of us classify as 'bastards' I don't think we have to worry."

"What do you mean by that?" Sonia's suspicious frown and the images flickering through her mind unsettled her empathic brother.

"I mean that he like, only kills murderers, rapists, sick sons-of-bitches that the world's better off without, those kinds of people." From Manic's perspective it seemed as though Sonia's mind froze with that announcement. Was it… shock?- at the fact that Manic could ever think such a sentiment? That he would ever say anyone deserved to die? There was a bit of shock hovering in the corners of Sonic's mind as well, but nothing to the level of Sonia's. Finally Sonia's mind kick-started and Manic was suddenly hit with the feeling that whatever came out of her mouth next, he wasn't going to like it.

"Manic… Were you ever…" Sonia hesitated nervously, her voice trembling at the thoughts running through her mind. Sonic glanced at her with a frown. What was going through her mind? Sonia's words came out as a whisper, "Were you ever raped?"

Yellow eyes stared at her in dumbfounded surprise. He had been expecting that question to a certain extent, but at the same time he'd thought that Sonia never would have asked. It took a moment for his mind to process the meaning of her words, and he knew that pause looked bad to both of his siblings. "W-what? What? Me? Raped?" Silence greeted his words as they both looked at him in concern.

"Is that why you said what you did about Kleptomaniac killing people?" The fact that Sonic was the one who had spoken set him off. Manic laughed.

"Me? Raped? Not in a million years! I'd like, so totally strangle somebody before they ever got the chance. You don't have to worry about me; I've never been jumped like that. I've known peeps who were, but I haven't."

"So why did you say what you did about Kleptomaniac?" Red eyes were firmly locked onto his own bright yellow ones. Manic knew that if he didn't let some of his emotions interfere in this conversation then both of his siblings were going to be permanently convinced that he'd been defiled. Just wonderful.

Manic went silent and his gaze became downcast. "There was one person I knew, chick by the name of Tahl, who got jumped like that once. I grew up with her, so I knew her my entire life. After what happened to her she…" Troubled yellow eyes looked up to his brother and sister; laying a little of his past on the table was the only way he could think of to correct their misunderstanding, no matter how much it still emotionally hurt. He didn't bother fighting any tears that might choose to surface, though he did repress the urge to start screaming and ranting. His eyes slid shut as he continued, "She had nightmares almost every night for a year. It took that long for the bastards that did that to her to die. They got killed off one by one; I'm pretty sure by Kleptomaniac. I tried to pull her out of it and all that, but… at the end of that year she committed suicide to make the nightmares stop."

Opening his eyes again, Manic could see as well feel how concerned they were. Their worry for him was breaking over his mind like waves on a shore. In some ways it was a bit comforting. In other ways it was overwhelming. "Since I grew up with her Tahl was kinda like my sister… She- she used to yell at me for some of the stupidest things." He laughed again. "…Those nightmares… I'd wake up every night hearing her scream. Every night, a scream that'd make anyone feel like totally curling up and dying. That was bad enough, y'know? When I found her dead…" The thief-prince's voice went silent as his throat tightened at the memory, his face going into his hands. When he spoke again his voice was vehement and firm as steel, "NO ONE should ever have to go through that. EVER. I'm glad that Kleptomaniac killed them. I'm glad that they couldn't keep on doing that to other peeps. If it hadn't been him…" His voice broke and he shuddered, his quills bristling slightly.

Sonic and Sonia glanced at each other silently. Neither of them had expected this sort of confession, but it did make a little of his personality make more sense to them. Wordlessly the two of them sat down on either side of their brother and hugged him. Any talk of Kleptomaniac would wait.


More than a week passed without any mention of Kleptomaniac, aside from Manic telling Sonic and Sonia why it was a bad idea to be overheard talking about him. "The wrong sort of peep overhears you, an' then they'll think you're in cahoots with him. If they think that, then they'll probably try to kill you 'cause they think it'll mean they're hurting Kleptomaniac from a distance. Not good news any way you look at it." To satisfy their curiosity and his own desire to talk, Manic let the occasional tidbits drop about his old friend Tahl. Some of the stupid or silly things they'd done, some of her weird habits, how she used to constantly criticize him about his earrings…

He still didn't talk too much about his past, but it eased the minds of his siblings to know that he was opening up a little. By the end of the allotted time of their gig almost all thoughts of bringing up the topic of Kleptomaniac had faded. All the same; Manic knew that while it had faded from their conversations, the thought of the mysterious killer still wafted in and out of Sonia and Sonic's minds. Overlaying that were images and speculations as to what Tahl had looked like, what had Manic seen when he found her dead? The thief-prince didn't particularly feel like reciting that memory to either of them.

However, late one night he was forcibly reminded; not of her death, but of something far worse. The nightmare had started off quietly enough- Manic walking down the street at night on his way for some errand or another, but not really in any hurry. There was a brief moment of pausing in his stride; stopping to re-check his list for the third time. Yes, yes, all the necessities that couldn't wait for morning. A thought… someone, a man? ...should get off his butt and do some work every now and then: A brief flicker of a portly canine of indeterminable breed, certainly not pleasant to look at, but an overall good person nonetheless.

He let out a frustrated sigh and looked back up to continue walking, took only about five steps forward before the laugh was heard. Someone was saying something… Manic didn't know what, but it came off as threatening. A scoff, Manic didn't think this fool could do anything and should just go on his way. He tried to step around the fool in his path and suddenly his upper arm was seized. Manic aimed a glare at the man and tried to pull his arm free, but the man's grip was stronger than he was. A snapped out demand, most likely for release, responded to with a laugh and getting thrown to the ground.

Suddenly a realization, a deep foreboding sense of dread- Manic tried to scramble to his feet and run, but the man was too fast. Excruciating pain as the man wailed on him, gave him no room to think or defend himself, the only movement available to offer struggle was trying to push the monster off. Fighting, struggling, all of it useless as the man dragged him off kicking and screaming into a seldom-used alleyway. Thrown to the ground again, the monster's body on top of him- ripping and tearing to get at him. Trying to punch the monster in the face only to get his wrists pinned down. NO! DON'T!

Not listening, only laughing as he rips away clothes; sinks claws deeply into Manic's back and tears downward. A scream, a keening wail, feminine and high pitched rents the air as claws dig in and the abuse begins- as the monster violates the woman under him and bites into her neck to try to silence her as he has his way.

Manic bolted upright, his eyes wide, his breathing ragged and panicked; the thief-prince's right hand rested on his chest as he sat there and shuddered while slowly coming awake to the reality around him. He could feel his heart pounding in his ears, his stomach doing flips, and the clinging nightmare forcing him to still feel fresh and hot blood trailing through his fur. Within moments Manic was out of his bed and had bolted to the bathroom, locking the door the moment it was closed. His stomach heaved less than a second after he'd gotten to the toilet and its contents cascaded forth as the hellish aftermath of the nightmare.

Even after he'd hacked and coughed up what he was certain was most of the food he'd eaten that day, Manic's body was still wracked with dry-heaves almost thirty minutes after. When his stomach subsided the green hedgehog collapsed in a weak heap on the floor, shuddering and coughing occasionally. After a few minutes Manic reached up and flushed the toilet with a shaky hand, and then let it drop as he curled into a ball and shivered. 'Not again, not another one… Please Goddess, not another one. I can't do this… I can not do this right now. Please dear Goddess…'

His inner mantra continued for a while as the girl's thoughts clung to him. It always happened like this when he picked up on another person's hell. Whether it was happening at just that moment or was just a nightmare repeat he could never tell. Either way it was always just as horrific. Every time these nightmares hit him he was briefly swallowed up by what he felt from the other person's mind, so as a result their terror stayed with him for a while until he regained himself. Manic laid there on the bathroom floor, unheeding of the passage of time, until the first beginning rays of sunlight pierced the fading gloom.

Closing his eyes Manic took a deep breath and held it for a moment before releasing it; forcing himself upright in the process. 'I am Manic. I am Kleptomaniac, thief-prince and royalty. I am Manic Sarashi Hedgehog: I am not her, I am myself and no one else.' "I am me," Manic muttered aloud raggedly. It helped to calm him and distance himself from the dream, and at that moment he needed that more than anything. He needed the soft reassurance of his own mind, the knowledge that he was safe. Ignoring the tightness of his stomach he stood and breathed deeply again. One thing was certain; while he would become more appropriately distanced as the day went on, he needed a shower NOW.




II Fira: Review, or my muses will eat you.

V Manic: o.O; Oooo-kay…