S: First of all, please let me apologise for the fact that it has been over a week since I updated, and I'm pretty sure you've all been cursing my name for several days now. I just could not think of a way to write this chapter well. Every attempt seemed absolutely awful, and if I'm honest, I still don't think this is good enough. It's not going to get any better than it is though.
I'm also sorry for the long author notes last chapter, and so before this one gets any bigger, please, enjoy.
Amy takes me in her arms, and her small, bright hands lift me up to my resting place with her. She is shining, her smiling features enhanced by the purity of the light behind her. The grey jacket she wears is almost glowing with the heavenly whiteness of the resting place, and her eyes glow as green as a pleasant field of grass. I feel at peace, knowing I did all I could to help.
Suddenly the whiteness fades, and is replaced by black. The comforting silence and drowsy feeling is now taut and confining, and I can't move at all. My head hits the floor with a crack, ringing audibly in my skull, and I wince. I can imagine the warmth of the bleeding as my vision starts to blur.
She was a hallucination. Amy was never here with me, lying in this black hell with broken muscles and ripped, blood-congealed fur. I feel the scorch of the blasted rocks beneath me, and my stomach and chest twinges in my memory. Can I bring myself to drag my dying body away from this place, just like I did before on that melted road? My mind makes me uncomfortably aware of exactly which layer of my body would tear away first, and then the next, and the next…
No. I can't do it this time, least of all because the entirety of my energy was used up in one final attack. I am little more than a corpse now, shrunken and beaten and hanging onto life by one last pitiable tendril. I lie in this crater of my own doing, quietly rotting away the time with my doom behind me. It stinks here, just like it did on that road, but this time, the stench of rotting tissue and organs is not countered by tarmac. I feel sick knowing that I am smelling myself, revolted.
The Amy I saw just now, was not the one I know. She was too pure to be Amy, too untouched. The Amy I know is marred by her life, coping with it instant by instant. And I am sure she would show more worry at the sight of me dying in a ditch, after our tearing goodbye.
Or would she? Was she just replacing Sonic with me? Had I been tricked by someone else? Granted, Amy was not secluding me from everyone like the hated blue one did, she was just… not wanting me… to leave… her…
Amy didn't want to be alone. Was that the reason she clung to the person who oh so conveniently looked like the previous object of her attention? Amy's mind was being controlled, but was it always that way? Something had to happen for her to be caught up in his despised 'adventures', after all. Could it be that her feelings were genuine at first? Or was she lying to him too?
And what does that make her now? A liar? A cheat? Yet another who doesn't care about me, like nobody but my mother and sister have ever done? She just left me here.
But she was never here.
She was a hallucination.
Was everything a hallucination?
She didn't come.
She wasn't supposed to come.
Why did she come here?
She didn't come here, it was a hallucination.
…Was Amy really here? Did she really care about me? Has she come to help me, to be with me in my final moments?
I don't want her to see that.
But I want to see her again.
Why is everything here black?
With unknown strength I sit upright. The world swims by me, as if I am underwater, but I ignore it. My stinging eyes rove endlessly around, searching for that one speck of pink to be my saviour. I see endless green. No pink.
I collapse again, cracking my head on the rock, and causing a sharp lance of pain into my brain. Why am I not dead yet?
My muscles won't let me move, but I turn my eyes to the side until they hurt. I see it! A tiny bit of green in the corner! Green on the floor outdoors means that…
…I'm lying on a field of grass. I feel each blade of it sharply on my skin. To the right, I hear the wind. Such a pleasant sound. It whooshes by, narrowly avoiding my prone form, before going off to my right with all the innocence of a child dancing among the flowers.
It occurs to me that everything I just thought was a hallucination. It seems I was even hallucinating that I was having a hallucination. Perhaps I should call it dream. What did it mean? What was the whiteness? And Amy?
"It looks like I'm saving you for the second time, Shadow."
"Amy will be relieved I've found you. The three of us were wondering where you'd got to in all the confusion, and one of us in particular was having a massive guilt trip."
Knuckles is here! I want to see him. I push against the ground, willing it to release me. My bones grind inside their fleshy prisons as I manage to turn over onto my knees. I look up, to see Knuckles standing near me, in the middle of a grassy field. He is smiling, and as I look, he flips back a small device and inserts it into his cuff.
"Hello, friend, you look like you could use a helping hand for saving the island like that. Will you accept my help as a small payment for your sacrifice?"
What is he talking about? Why am I kneeling in a field of flowers?
Knuckles glances round. "Yeah, I know this place looked different the last time you saw it, but that's the power of the Master Emerald at work. It isn't just a weapon, you know."
He walks forward and offers his hand. After a moment, I take it. It is surprisingly solid, and he pulls me to my feet easily, where I manage to balance. I must be dreaming. I must have failed. Knuckles is greeting me in the afterlife, and I failed to protect him. Or Amy.
My stomach drops, leaving a horrible empty space. Where is she?
"I just told her that I'd found you. She's probably on her way right now, dying of overloads of relief." Knuckles' voice remains as level as it was before, but I sense in it a tone of… laughter? What reason could he have for laughing?
The guardian seems to read my thoughts. "Even I know that nearly dying, even for such a noble cause, makes your girlfriend mad as hell for your idiocy."
"I have a girlfriend?" I blurt out unthinkingly. Knuckles' eyes widen for a moment, and then his smile widens considerably.
"You really are different from the hedgehog I used to know." He crosses his arms and simply grins at me, offering no explanation for his actions. Everything I had thought to myself in my dream about Amy comes back in force, and I can't bear to return his smile.
I had given in so easily, selfishly assuming Amy didn't care about me to soothe my pain. Now the pain comes back, making my chest ache, and my eyes suddenly become hot. I resist the incredible urge to blink, and I lower my head instead. I do not want to cry, especially in the presence of another person. It would be unforgivable and excruciating to even think about it.
Knuckles frowns. He uncrosses his arms and puts a hand on my shoulder. It burns.
"Hey, what's wrong? We're all fine, you know, it's you we were worried about."
Something Knuckles said before clicks in my mind, and I jerk my head up. Salty tears fly everywhere, and I can feel them sliding down my cheeks even as I speak, but I don't care.
"You said 'the three of us'. Who is the third?"
Knuckles stops. He opens his mouth to speak, but then closes it again with a sigh. I am beginning to get impatient.
"Who is the third person? There were no others! Who is it?"
"What?! What did he do? Did we not stop him? Where's Amy?"
Knuckles stands there. His eyes are blank, impossible to read. I can hear the wind again, brushing the grass lightly, but this time it seems that the dancing child is singing maliciously at the top of its voice, trampling where it danced, and dragging out the echidna's response. Knuckles' spines are also moving with the wind, and with the movement all around, the air feels suffocating.
"…Tails realised his mistake. We told him how Sonic ruined all our lives, not just his, and he saw his error. He stopped the robots that he sent to destroy the island, but we feared it might have been too late to save you."
"He… realised his mistake?"
"He knows now that he has friends who went through the same thing he did, and now we're all going to help each other."
…Could it be that Tails saved me? Is this the only reason I am still alive, because he had a change of heart at the last minute? I find that hard to believe, even though I desperately want to. I don't think I have it in my to fight anymore… I just want to have some peace. My life has been full of hardship, needless hardship, and I want it to end. I only hope this can happen.
But wait a minute. The robots may not have killed me in my vulnerable state after my attack, but the Chaos Blast would have killed me anyway. I could feel myself ripping to pieces under the strain of the power. Why am I still here?
"Why am I not dead? And why aren't we standing in a crater right now? I used everything I had in one last attack, and I know for a fact it would have killed me. Why am I still here, talking to you after it's… all… over…" I can't continue. Being able to say 'it's all over'. Could it really be… over?
Knuckles starts smiling again, and he sweeps his arm in an arc, looking at the grass, the trees, the sky. He closes his eyes and listens to the birdsong echoing in the wind. He smells the fresh air, tangible in the scent of freedom and peace that only comes from a floating island. I can detect the pride in his voice, and he talks to me.
"This is the power of the Master Emerald. When I used the energy to strike down the battleship, it did other things too. Like destroying all of the robots, for instance. Great waves of white light, making all the enemies of the emerald… disappear." Knuckles began to whisper reverently, staring through a cloud. "The emerald's power destroyed the robots, and healed everyone who was not an enemy caught in the blast. It is said in the scriptures that a person blessed by this wave of power sees the things that matter to them the most."
"I saw a white light, when I was dying. Was that it?"
Knuckles nods, slowly and calmly. "Yes." Suddenly he turns, an uncharacteristic smirk on his face. "And what did you see, Shadow? Did you perhaps see a place of rest you enjoyed? Maybe it was a feeling. Or could it have a been a person?"
I had thought of Amy. That means that…
I feel the blush starting on my cheeks, and I tighten up my face. I always wondered why people never stopped their blushes before they happened, but now I understand that they can't stop. It feels horribly embarrassing, especially with a smirking echidna finding out his suspicions. Curiously, it also feels… relieving. Liberating. I smirk back at him, and for a moment I feel that some sort of understanding had passed between us.
"And what did you see, guardian? Did you see a special person, too?"
There was silence for a moment. I become aware of a movement in the distance, growing steadily larger.
Knuckles opens his mouth, still maintaining that smirk. "I saw someone too." He turns to look at the approaching shape. It now appears that it is actually some sort of propeller shape, but after a moment, I see that it is two people, one clinging onto the other. It is Tails, with Amy hanging onto his arm.
"But unfortunately," Knuckles continued, looking at the approaching pair, "I cannot tell this person that I saw her. She is now dead, and I only realised the most important thing after her death." I look at him. His face is downcast, his smirk gone. He now seems lonely and forlorn. "But on the bright side," he said, "I can tell someone who would understand what it means."
He looks at me now, and I understand whom he had seen. I remember what Rouge said to me long ago.
"He saved my life. He says he wouldn't have done if I didn't have the Master Emerald with me, but I know he would."
"But how? How do you know?"
She smiled. "I can't tell you. You wouldn't understand."
I understand now. I move myself to face him, letting my face form into a smile that I know is true.
"Rouge told me once that a certain echidna saved her life. She said she knew why he'd done it, and she never gave up hope that she would get to meet that person again. She loved you, Knuckles, and I know that somewhere, she is glad that you are the person she met again."
Knuckles stares at me. The wind blows past us again, and in the distance I can hear Tails' distinctive helicopter sound getting steadily louder. Then it mutes. The wind doesn't seem to blow Knuckles' spines around anymore, and I can't feel it on my fur. The birds have stopped singing. I stare into the guardian's eyes, hoping that I haven't misjudged. That was what he wanted to hear, right?
All I can do is smile at him. At least that shows that I didn't mean any harm.
It is so quiet that I almost didn't hear it. All at once, the sounds of the world come back. The birds sing extra loud in relief, the wind blows faster to make up for lost time, and Tails and Amy are almost here.
Knuckles turns back to them, a contented look on his face. "Now it's your turn. You get the chance to tell her. Use it well."
The two of them are almost here now. It'll be a matter of seconds before they are upon us, and I come face to face with Amy Rose. Plenty of time to come up with a way of saying the thing I want to say.
S: Aaaaand... roll credits! That's right, this is the end of the story. There will be no 'we saved the world from Robotnik's scourge' in THIS tale. My apologies if you were expecting that. I had always intended it to end here from the very beginning, and I think actually a few of you may have already suspected this (points at Dennisthefox).
This is the first multi-chapter story I've ever finished, and I don't really know how to do this, so just bear with me, okay? Let's see... first of all, thank you very much for reading this, and my eternal gratitude goes out to all the wonderful reviewers. This couldn't have happened without you. Thanks. :)
Secondly... actually, I can't think of one. Um, disclaimer for Sonic characters perhaps? Oh yes, how about my apologies for the sudden ending? I keep thinking it's far too quick, and if you read the comments I made at the top, you'd know that I don't like this chapter much anyway. Ah well, no matter what, it's the end now, and I hope you enjoyed it.
This was a story by S of STaR Productions, and I'll see ya later! (insert wise saying here)