I NEVER REALLY find myself feeling sad or stopping for very long. But, there's always exceptions to the rule, aren't there? I'm not all depressed or anything. He smiles. I'm not Shadow; I don't dwell. But, if I'm to go on, I've got to make things right.

You were- are a great friend. After all, you're not gone: you'll never be gone. If anything, you'll probably wake up in a couple million years or two and I'll be gone: turned to fossil fuel or something. Yeah. You're future will go on for whoever knows how long. Wow, I wonder what things you'll see and who else you'll meet. You said you'll never forget me. I'll never forget you, either. It's not often that someone saves me.

Usually, you know, I'm too quick for anything. He laughs. Even the Grim Reaper, I guess. But, man, when I cut it close… it is close. There's no describing the thrill I get off that, too. He smirks. But, the thrill of nearly snuffing my own life out while trying to save so many others is nothing compared to how grateful I am when someone else does the same for me. I could never ask someone to do it; I guess a little ego goes into that. But, for all the times I've saved people, I'd feel like some sort of cheat to ask anyone to lay down their life for mine. Of course, you didn't really die, did you? You were millions of years old to begin with. Like I said, if anything, you'll just pop up in another eon like you'd just taken a little nap. Maybe – he chuckles – I should have named you "Rip" instead, eh? Like old Rip van Winkle? But, Rip or Chip, that wasn't your "real name," was it? Light Gaia.

I only named you Chip on account of that ice cream sundae. At least the vendor was right, it was delicious: money well spent – although, I think you enjoyed it more. Boy, I hope ice cream doesn't go out of style when you wake up again. It'd be a shame if that was the only taste you ever got. What was it you told me? That you'd never really made friends or really had a life of your own? And you'd lived on earth for so very long. What'd you do before? Just let Dark Gaia destroy the earth?

I don't think I could do that. I know you could simply put the earth back together again. But, in some ways that's just treating life like a job: like someone told you to do nothing for millions of years except pick up after someone else. His features screwed up into a troubled realization. What if I did that, huh? It'd make Eggman happy, that's for sure. As he smiles, it is a grim smile. But, how many others would be made unhappy? I couldn't stand it. Tails, Amy, Knuckles, Big, Vector, Charmy, Cream… And that's just some of the people I know. I couldn't do that to them or people I didn't know; to anyone. Life is so precious and Eggman… he just makes it miserable for others. Sure, he gets away a lot. …Sometimes because I let him off the hook. But, so long as I know I can fight him, I know he'll never win. So, in a way, I guess we're like you and Dark Gaia, Chip. I'm you and Eggman is… He shakes his head in bemused disgust.

Don't worry, Chip. I'll make sure that I protect the earth for the time you're resting; at least so long as this hedgehog still draws breath. Then, I guess I could trust Tails to carry on, too. And, even though we don't always see eye to eye, I think I can trust Shadow to do his part for the rest of his long, long life. And, if everything lasts till that day that you and Dark Gaia square off, again, I know I can trust you to do your part. You are good, you are the light.

When we first met, you were so scared of me. When I was that… thing, I guess anyone would have been upset. Jeez. Even Amy didn't recognize me.

He frowns.

That hurt a little, actually.

I mean, I like Amy. But, not in the way she wants me to like her.

Still.

She's always so determined to keep up with me and be around me. So, when she just… brushed me away, while I was like that. It got to me. Sure, it was one thing to scare you, a stranger at first; but, for Amy to do that… Well, it was the first time I realized what Eggman had done to me. I… doubted myself. I really did feel like Eggman had the upper hand, that I'd let so many people down, that… I just felt bad was all.

You tried to cheer me up, though; with chocolate, of all things.

His smile returns.

That was your answer to everything. You weren't exactly a good diplomat: you stuttered a lot when scared – which you were easily scared – and you often times got in over your head. But, you tried, with the best thing you had to offer: those chocolate bars. I guess you kept sneaking them whenever we stopped in some town for a while. Otherwise, I don't know how you kept getting so many of them. It's only looking back on it that I realize that you were doing your best. I didn't want chocolate at the time, which saddened you, I could tell. But, seeing it now, it's one of those little things we can laugh about, I guess. I mean, after all, it was one thing to be in a bad funk, but a whole other thing to be at the earth's core, exhausted and nearly about to die. Chocolate or a rescue, you did your best.

What was it you told me?

I had to live.

I've never had trouble with the will to live, but you gave me the chance to keep on living. Like I said before, it's rare that anyone's ever done that.

Did I ever tell you the time that Tails saved my life? I had just destroyed the Death Egg – or so I thought at the time – and I was falling back to earth. I was a goner. The only good thing about it was that I knew I'd beaten Eggman. Then, there he was: Tails. He just flew up in the Tornado, saw me and scooped me up. He trusted me to survive; just like I trusted him to be there. We had every reason to doubt it, but we kept the faith. It's times like that that you realize you've made a friend till the end. He smiles warmly. And, with friends like that, you can take anything and hold out hope. Even the darkest future becomes one of endless possibilities.

He starts to run.

You told me that you'll always be with me, Chip – he rubs the pendant on his wrist – 'as a part of the earth that you tread.' And I believe that. Even when I'm put down to rest, myself, I'll believe it. I know you will, too, when you wake up. And, maybe, who knows, when that endless cycle of reawakening, battle, and sleep is broke at the end of time…

Faster…

Maybe we'll meet up on the other side of forever.

Faster…

And you know what?

Faster…

We'll get us a couple of Chocolate Chip Sundae Supremes, my treat.

He becomes one with the wind, a blue blur of motion and energy. A single tear slides down his cheek and, for the slightest moment, it touches the corner of his lips that are drawn back into a joyous and free grin. The tear slips free in the wind and sparkles for an instant in the noonday sun. The drop falls to the ground and moistens the soil.