A/N: Once upon a time, I used to collect the Archie comics, but I eventually abandoned the universe somewhere around issue 75. Because of it, my knowledge of that particular world now is sketchy at best, but after recently deciding to back-order the Mobius: 25 Years Later arc, I opted to try my hand at a SEGA/Archie-verse cross-over. The "pairing" is an unusual one, I'll admit, and I decided on it mostly to see if I could do it. I'm fairly pleased with the results, and I hope you will be too.
As always, read, review, and enjoy ;)
cinderella, the fairy tales over
you should know, you got the scars to prove it
and your skin isn't as soft as it used to
but i don't care, come on you said it baby
- Oingo Boingo
Here he was just Sonic.
Not 'His Majesty', or 'King Sonic', or even 'Queen Sally's Royal Consort, Sir Sonic Hedgehog'. Because there was no Sally here, no Kingdom of Acorn, no purple-haired mongeese or half-mechanical Rabbots; there was no echidna race, no Republic of Angel Island, no Dark Legion and certainly no married, forty-something, having-a-mid-life-crisis Lord Sonic. The dimension in which she had accidentally crossed over into was devoid of all things, leaving behind a solitary Guardian, the last of his kind; a bright-eyed fox not yet scarred with the harshness of war, tortured with pain and loss; and a seventeen year old cobalt hedgehog, with an easy smile and a carefree heart. He was also not married, or engaged, or even holding down a steady girlfriend, a point that Lara-Su was becoming more and more acutely aware of as she spent more time in his company. Here, he was simply Sonic, and he had never known it any other way.
She adored him.
It was strange to harbor such fond feelings for a person that she had known back in her own dimension to be more than twice her age, married, with two kids. Had she really dwelled on it, perhaps the thought would unnerve her. She had only pondered the notion once, wondered briefly it was wrong, and decided that it wasn't. Because here he wasn't married - here he wasn't tied down and regal and, well, old, to put it bluntly. And to be quite honest, these feelings were a hell of a lot easier to deal with than the thought that this version's Knuckles - which, no matter how she looked at it, was still her father, for Maria's sake, in this world or her own - seemed to fancy her. A lot. Not that she could blame him, really - she was probably the first echidna the poor bloke had ever met, besides Tikal, and that didn't really seem to count because it was in a dream and that broad had been dead for hundreds of years and that did little to help out the ol' 'kidna hormones. Lara, meanwhile, had fallen straight out of the sky and was real, flesh-and-blood, honest-to-Goddess member of his species. It didn't help that she had grown quite a bit in the boob department over the past six months, giving him something to lose sleep over at night. He wasn't all that discreet about stealing glances at her cleavage, either, whenever they interacted.
She was partly to blame, anyway, having purposely neglected to mention their true relation. Although she had been flung across dimensions into this one, the one where dingo factions and chipmunk rulers didn't exist, she still knew them to be blood, and that was a big no-no in anyone's book of Morals. Still, she refused to reveal this little tidbit, afraid that exposing this piece of otherwise vital information would disrupt the time-space continuum, or warp the space between two alternative realities that had now intersected, or some other mystical mumble jumbo she didn't quite understand. She knew that the intention of the The Tachylon Displacement Chamber was to send her back in time to right all wrong's (well, that's what its intended purpose was for her world's Sonic, although admittedly, she had secretly hitched a ride), but some metaphorical (or was that literally?) wires had been crossed and sent here instead. She knew from the start that something was wrong, and she had no idea how to fix them – but she figured in good time things would fix themselves, or her father would come barging out of a portal, hollering for her, or something; in the meantime, she didn't want to further jeopardize her situation and get herself into a bind by screwing things up. So to be on the safe side, she kept a tight lid on her true origins. She could interrupt the flow of time or something for all she knew, and end up being stuck here for the rest of eternity, thus dooming her own existence on another plane of reality. Better safe than sorry, as they always said.
Although if she was permitted to be a little honest here, being marooned in Station Square with Sonic the Hedgehog, seventeen, beautiful and arrogant, for the rest of eternity wasn't sounding all that bad right now. Doomed existence in another reality aside, that is. Yeah.
So, other than a love-struck Knuckles, and a rather hostile pink hedgehog who had repeatedly cautioned Lara since her arrival to 'keep your hands off my man', she had a pretty good set-up here. The residents of Station Square were friendly, nobody made her go to high school, and the biggest threat to her newfound way of life - Eggman - was a joke compared to the horror stories she had heard about the Dr. Robotnik back home. All and all, Lara-Su was pretty content. The fact that she had a little eye-candy to keep her occupied in the meantime didn't hurt either.
"I thought the pool closed at eleven," Lara-Su said, closing the gate behind her as she sauntered across the deck where he lay across a lawn chair. The hedgehog inclined his head to look up at her as she drew nearer.
"It does," he told her matter-of-factly, grinning. The lights from the pool casted a strange, aquamarine glow across his simpering features, giving him an ethereal, almost otherworldly appearance in the twilight. "That's one of the perks of being a world-renown hero. Exceptions are made for the elite." He nodded at her bathing suit - a pair of sun-bright, yellow board shorts she had stolen from Tails' closet, purposely slung low on her generous hips, and a bikini top she had bought from the Hotel's souvenir shop downstairs. "Taking advantage of having friends in high places, I see."
"Oh yeah, I'm really milking it, as you can see," she said wryly, setting her towel down on one of the chairs beside him. "Sneaking into the pool past curfew." She gestured to the water behind her. "Care to take a dip?"
He waved her off. "Go on without me. I'm not much of a water person, to be honest."
She threw him an incredulous look. "Yet you're lying out by the pool."
"Inside my room it's stuffy. I can get some fresh out here, and plus it's nice out with the breeze and all." He paused and she stared at him expectantly. "And most importantly, this is the last place in Station Square where Amy would expect to find me. She knows that I can't swim."
Lara-Su did a double-take. "You can't… swim?"
"Every great hero has a weakness, right?" he threw a wink at her, and she was impressed with how devoid of embarrassment he was, relaying the information so casually to her. She briefly thought of the King Sonic back at home, enthusiastically diving sideways to punt the volleyball over the net in their pool. They were so different. "Mine's water."
She shook her head. "You're something else."
"Well, you don't mind if I utilize the facilities here, do you?"
"Go for it, girl." Lara-Su shook her head at him, although she was smiling. Then she turned around and abruptly pitched forward in an elegant dive off of the edge and into the deep end. She reappeared a few seconds later in the shallow end, tossing her dreadlocks back over her shoulders with more dramatic flourish than what was strictly necessary, wringing the moisture from her damp bangs and pushing them back from her face. She looked back over her shoulder to see if he was watching, and was pleased to note that he was. He was still wearing that easy grin of his, arms folded across his peach-furred chest. That smug look he was giving her made her feel both simultaneously happy and a little shy.
"What're you smirking about?"
"I give it a 7.5."
It took her a moment to register what he was talking about. "What?!" she cried, mock-angry as she referenced the water around her. "That was a perfect dive!"
"Your splash got me wet," he said simply, and she saw, for the first time, that the edges of his quills were glistening in the moonlight. "I docked some points for that."
"So you're avoiding Amy Rose, huh?" Lara-Su asked, propelling herself back and forth across the length of the pool with her long, powerful legs.
"It's a never-ending struggle," he told her, eyes following her as she did some laps. "She's pretty clever too, so I'm constantly having to find new places to… uh…"
"Hide?" Lara offered.
"…Hang out," he rectified, shaking his head.
"So what's the deal with you two anyway, if you don't mind my asking?" Lara-Su inquired, wading to the shallow end and climbing up the steps and out on the deck again. She pulled her towel free from her chair and settled down in its place, draping it over her shoulders. "Does she not just take a hint, or are you just playing hard to get?"
Sonic grimaced. "It's… complicated."
"So you guys aren't an item?"
Sonic lifted his eyebrows. "Why so interested in my love life all of a sudden?"
She felt a blush creeping across her features in response to the inquiry, and was inwardly thankful that they were shrouded in darkness. "Just curious," she said, trying to keep her voice steady as she shrugged her shoulders in a show of indifference. "You have such a rampant female fan-base; I'm just surprised you don't have a girlfriend, if only just to shake off the suitors. Amy seemed like a pretty likely candidate."
"I'd rather put my all into something, rather than getting a girlfriend just for the sake of having one," he stated, badly, and Lara recoiled as though struck. He must have noted the look on her face, or heard the tinge of bitterness that had seeped into his voice, because he made a face at himself. "Sorry. That came out meaner than it sounded in my head."
"So… you don't like Amy, then?" Lara offered, a little tentatively.
"It's not that…"
"So you do like Amy, then!" Lara cried, trying to mask her disappointment and arrange her facial features in a construction of glee. She wasn't sure if the effort came across; Sonic merely raised his eyebrows.
"What about you and Knux? Gunna help him re-populate the Echidna race?"
Lara-Su made a face. "Yeah, no way."
"How come? For a dude, he's alright lookin'."
Lara-Su arched her eyebrows back at him. Sonic held up his hands in defense. "… Or so I've heard."
"And who told you that?" she asked him innocently, and began toweling herself off.
"Well, there's this one girl who's hot for him, Rouge. I don't think you've met her though." Sonic said, appearing thoughtful. Lara-Su had never heard of a Rouge from her mom back at home; she wondered if the other creature was even on her plane of existence. "And Amy did once say that he'd be cute if he wasn't always such a grouch."
Lara-Su perked up immediately. "We should play match-maker, and get her off your tail then."
"I don't mind having a mascot," he shrugged.
You do like her, Lara thought reproachfully, internally cursing her luck. Just my luck.
"Knux is gonna be bummed," Sonic murmured absently.
"Why? Did he say something?" Lara-Su asked, aghast. Her hands froze, the towel remaining poised above her.
"No," Sonic admitted. "We don't really talk about stuff like that much as it is. And I'm pretty sure if I asked him if he had the hots for you, he'd probably haul off and punch me in the face." Sonic grinned faintly at the thought. "Well, he'd try anyway. But yeah, Knux kinda keeps to himself like that."
Sonic had strayed from the topic a little. "But?" Lara asked.
"But… well, I mean, it's pretty obvious, isn't it?" He peered into the scarlet female's face curiously. "… Are you sure you don't like him? I mean, I would think it'd be destiny or something. You two being the last of your race, and whatnot."
Lara-Su found herself growing more uncomfortable with every passing moment. "Yeah, well…"
"Unless there are other echidnas out there," Sonic mused, with that same keen look. "And you're just not telling us or something."
"Err… well…" Don't give yourself away, Lara. Keep it vague. "…That's not too far of a stretch, I'd think. I mean, I went sixteen years without coming across another echidna before I met you guys." She scratched the back of her head. "And Knuckles may have gone even longer. I guess it wouldn't be a stretch to say that there are others out there, somewhere. World's a big place, after all."
"Then again, maybe it's best you guys don't get too impassioned or whatever," Sonic said, shrugging. "After all, you've got that weird crescent moon thing on your chest. Isn't that the mark of the Knuckles clan or something? You guys could be related. And that would be… well, a little gross."
Lara-Su stared down at her own chest in shock, where indeed, the mark was quite visible to the naked eye, clad only in a water-drenched bikini. No, Sonic, she thought as she felt a certain degree of panic begin to seize her. It's not the mark of the clan. It's the mark of the Guardian. Trying her best to sound nonchalant, she said, "oh, you could be right. I never made the connection before. You're very clever."
"Well, don't give me the credit," Sonic said, with a charming laugh. "Knux pointed it out to me earlier."
Lara-Su froze. He knows. Then, trying to reassure herself, she reasoned: no, no, not necessarily. Maybe here it really is just the mark of his tribe. Immediately she felt a new wave of nausea, accompanying by blind panic: No, he definitely knows.
Well, either she had misread the other echidna entirely, or he didn't have a problem with what was very plainly incest. Either way, her cover was apparently blown. She wasn't sure which unnerved here more, and suddenly she had the desire to retreat back into the hotel and camp out there for several days. She suddenly felt exposed, scared and a little uncertain as to what was going to happen next.
Could this keep me from going home? She thought wildly. Could this be the deciding factor in whether I can reform my world or destroy it? Are our realities going to suddenly collide, and then implode? What is going to happen? Did I hopelessly screw something up, by revealing myself inadvertently?
"Hey, Lara," came the cheerful drawl of her companion, and a little distracted, she turned to face him. "You hungry?"
Lara-Su regarded the other creature stoically. But looking into those brilliant, glittering optics of emerald green, she felt a sense of calm overcome her. Well, the world isn't unraveling by its seams around me, she thought after a moment of consideration. I'm not disappearing into nothingness. Maybe I'm alright.
"I know a little diner that's still open at this hour," the hedgehog continued, oblivious to her internal plight, "if you're interested."
Either way, there's no use worrying, she decided grimly. What's done is done. There's nothing I can except be, in this moment. After all, no matter who you are or where you're from, tomorrow is promised to no man. Might as well get a kick out of this vacation while I'm still able.
"Yeah," she said, throwing her towel over her shoulder and fixing him with what she hoped was a captivating smile. "Yeah, I'd like that."