"One Single Tear"
"Hey Sonic, can you pass me that wrench?"
"What, this one?"
"No, the larger one."
Sonic and Tails had spent the majority of the day in Tails' workshop atop the hill in the Mystic Ruins. The sun had begun to dip behind the endless expanse of the ocean, painting the cloudy sky with a mix of pink, purple and orange. It was relatively quiet throughout the landscape of the area, from the graceful waterfall across from the train station to the high cliffs next to the workshop. It was only interrupted by the frequent banging of hammers and buzzing of drills from the workshop. The pair was working on their old biplane "The Tornado" and was trying to get it back in tip top shape again after it had a nasty explosion on their last flight a day before, which resulted in a face full of smoke for Sonic.
They were trying to see if they could power the Tornado by using a chaos emerald, something Tails had attempted before with another one of his planes but the experiment failed miserably. Tails had made a few modifications to their old biplane so that it would run off of a chaos emerald's power and asked if Sonic could find one of the seven chaos emeralds for him so they could try it out. The blue hedgehog was more than happy to help out. He dashed off into the distance and in what seemed like a mere hour he returned to the workshop with the blue chaos emerald in hand. Tails placed it into the biplane's engine and quickly got it running, but then it quickly overpowered and blew to pieces. Tails had spent most of the day building a new engine that would hold and withstand the chaos emerald's energy and installing it on the Tornado while Sonic watched and helped whenever he was needed.
Sonic found and handed Tails the wrench and watched his friend hop onto the biplane's lower wing to tighten a bolt into place. He stared up at the fox boy, somehow feeling a little impatient and not noticing that his foot had begun tapping. He looked outside through one of the windows out toward the cliffs. He was always more than happy to help Tails when he needed something, especially when it's with one of his planes. But he couldn't help but feel a little guilty as he stared outside. He longed to head out and dash around the Mystic Ruins and feel the wind flow through his spines, but he couldn't just bail out on his little buddy. He knew it was true, however; he would much rather be out running right now.
Tails suddenly leapt off of the wing and landed next to Sonic. He wiped his forehead, leaving behind a nice smudge of dirt, and breathed a heavy sigh.
"Alright! That should do it!" He said happily. "I think she's about ready to go! I think we can call it a day for now, though."
"It's about flippin' time!" Sonic burst out. "I could have run to Station Square and back about fifty times by now with the amount of time we spent on it today!"
Tails' ears lowered and he looked down at his feet as if ashamed. Sonic stared at him.
"I-I'm sorry, Sonic…" He muttered without looking up.
Sonic's eyes widened. "For what?"
"I know you don't like helping me with the plane and my machines…"
"What gave you that idea?"
"Every time I ask you to come over you have this…I don't know…feeling, about you. I know you would rather spend your day out running and adventuring and all that stuff, but I really needed your help with this. You're the only one who knows a little about planes and the only person I know who would help me. And I wanted…to spend a little time with you…I'm sorry…"
Sonic shook his head. "Tails, Tails, Tails…"
He stood in front of the fox and lightly placed his hands on Tails' shoulders. Tails looked up at him with watery eyes almost as if he was afraid of what Sonic was about to say.
"Look, little bro…" Sonic began. "Why you would believe that is beyond me, but I think you got me all wrong. Sure, I love running and adventuring, but those aren't the only things I love doing. I love hanging out with you and helping you out, especially with the Tornado! You and I built the thing together, after all! I know sometimes I get a little…antsy, but that's just how I am. You know that. And besides…" Sonic walked over to the Tornado and placed a hand on its body. "If Eggman can build machines that use the emeralds' power, I know without a doubt you can too."
Sonic grinned at Tails and was pleased to see Tails give him a smile back.
"So…you think she'll be ready for a test flight tomorrow?"
"Yeah, I think so." Tails said, moving over to where Sonic was and staring up at the plane. "It's pretty much done. I just gotta do a few tweaks and make a few adjustments to the engine and she'll be all set."
"Good to hear!"
The two stared at the plane in silence and anticipation was growing between them. Flying around with the Tornado was one of their favorite pastimes whenever they weren't adventuring or stopping another one of Dr. Robotnik's wild schemes. Sonic couldn't help but feel a little excited as it felt good to actually look forward to something.
"Well…I guess you can go now." Tails said softly.
"Hmm?" Sonic glanced at Tails.
"You can leave if you want. The Tornado's pretty much set."
"Oh, well okay, if you say so… I guess I'll see you tomorrow then?"
"Alrighty then! Later, Tails!"
Sonic went the workshop's door and was about to dash off.
Sonic stood still as a statue and gazed at the fox. "What?"
Tails went over to one of the drawers by his toolbox and pulled out what looked like a pair of small radios. He walked over to Sonic and handed one of them to him.
"Here, take it. I'll let you know when to come over so we can hit the skies!"
Sonic took the small radio. "Okay, thanks! See you tomorrow Tails!"
The hedgehog walked out of the workshop and closed the door softly. Within seconds he could hear the tinkering of Tails continuing to work on the biplane. He smiled, shook his head and then breathed in the cool air of the evening. He gazed around, grinning at the colorful hues the sunset was painting on everything. He gazed upward at the bluffs near the workshop and his eyes stopped at the very top. He could just see the dark silhouette of something standing up there and it almost seemed like it was staring down at him. But just as quickly as he spotted it, the shape vanished without a trace.
"Hmm…must've been a bird or something…" Sonic muttered to himself. Within the next moment Sonic had dashed off toward the Mystic Ruins train station and leapt high into the air, landing on the stairs and hopped again onto the deck. A train was currently docked with a few people getting on and off. He jumped into the air again and landed on the roof of the train, ignoring the stares he was getting. He stood up as the train whistled loudly and a voice broke out of the speakers stating that it was about to depart. After a few minutes passed the train's doors slid shut and it jerked forward as Sonic stood firm on its roof. It quickly picked up speed as it headed down the railing toward Station Square and into the golden sunset. The blue hedgehog was constantly grinning with his arms folded as the wind blew through his spines.
Noon was approaching, but there was no shining sun. The sky was covered with a thick gray blanket of clouds and an unusual cold breeze blew through the air. The hills below that were usually bright and beautiful had a sickly and dull color to them now, almost as if the land itself had died a little on the inside. The open sea in the distance seemed very still and silent, and the area seemed to be all but devoid of any signs of life. A blue figure was traveling across the land, seemingly toward a set direction in the area.
Sonic was walking, not running, up the rolling hills of Emerald Hill, a place he hadn't seen in quite some time. He faced forward, his face expressionless, not stopping to admire the sights around him that he used to enjoy seeing, but not on this day. Each step that carried him closer to his destination was dreadful, but they still moved him forward. He passed by the palm trees, leapt over cliffs and climbed the walls and hills while dodging the cleverly placed springs and spike traps throughout the area. He was surprised that he still knew the area rather well despite his long absence from it, but at this point he was still unsure whether that was a good thing or not.
After many painstaking minutes, Sonic had reached one of the tallest hills in Emerald Hill. He stopped and looked up toward the top of the hill, spotting a few lone trees and a stone of some sort sticking out of the ground, though he knew exactly what it was in his heart. It tug and tore at him inside, part of him wanting to go up there while the other wanted to turn around and leave immediately. Sonic looked off to the side and closed his eyes tightly. His legs were trembling slightly beneath him, urging him to go in either direction even though his mind still couldn't decide. After a few moments of mental strain, Sonic shook his head and growled softly, trying to clear his mind. There was no use in just standing still after all, something that he very rarely used to do, and breathed a heavy sigh. He raised his head, looked forward, and walked up the hill toward its summit.
Sonic stared ahead and passed the trees, his eyes locking on the lone dark gray tombstone. He slowed his pace as he approached it, a deep sinking feeling crawling up the inside of his chest and the longing to dash off in the other direction grew stronger. He then stopped a few feet away from the stone, his eyes narrowed and unflinching, pasted on the stone's rough and blank surface. A few bouquets of flowers were scattered around the stone and had already begun to wilt away as if the tombstone had affected them as well. For a long time Sonic stared at it, his body rigid and cold, but not from the chilling wind around him. After what seemed like an hour, Sonic slowly knelt down to one knee and cracked his mouth open.
"Hey, little buddy…" Sonic said softly, keeping his voice calm and smiling.
A new morning had begun in Station Square, awakening its citizens and bringing life to the bristling city. The sun's rays had difficulty in shedding its light through all of the congested buildings, but still managed to provide a lovely orange glow to the city's streets. Cars zoomed in and out of the roads and tunnels and pedestrians could be seen walking among the sidewalks carrying on with their peaceful lives. A few however had turned their attention upward, spotting a blue blur traveling across the tops of the buildings at speeds too quick for the eye.
Sonic dashed along the sides of seemingly every building in the city. He leapt between some and ran up the walls of others, all the time he had his mouth curved to a smile. He ran up the side of a particularly tall skyscraper and landed smoothly on the top. He stood up tall and smiled, not feeling the smallest amount of fatigue. A pleasant breeze was blowing, balancing out the warmth from the sunrise. He gazed down at the city below, watching its activity. Even though he had circled around the city at least a dozen times already this morning and had seen everything it had to offer, he never did get tired of visiting it or its people. Something about the city drew him and left a mark on him, most likely from the fact it was the location where one of his most memorable adventures had begun.
Sonic began to tap his foot slightly. Anticipation was growing steadily within him, which was common for him in the mornings, as each new day was the start of another adventure. But somehow this day felt a little different as if today would behold something that he longed for. He held the small radio, waiting for it to come to life and echo Tails' voice from it. He folded his arms and waited a little more, the tapping of his foot becoming steadily faster.
Then as if to answer his call, the radio buzzed softly. Sonic's ears perked up and he stopped tapping his foot. He pushed the small button on it.
"Hey Sonic! You there? Can you hear me?" Said Tails' voice from the speaker.
"Loud and clear little bro." Sonic replied happily. "What's up?"
"The Tornado's all ready to go!" Tails' voice said excitedly. "Come to my workshop so that we can give her a test flight!"
"Alright! I'll be there in a minute!" Sonic said, turning the radio off and stuffing it away. Sonic hopped up onto the edge of the roof and gazed downward at the city. He then leapt into the air and entered a free fall along the side of the building, his feet less than a foot from its side. He slowly angled his fall until his feet touched the wall, in which he then began to run downward while he continued to increase his speed faster than gravity could take him. He turned to his right just before he reached the base of the skyscraper and ran along the wall parallel to the ground and quickly leapt off, jumping between multiple buildings in the blink of an eye. He jumped again and landed on the street, dashing off in the direction of the train station, dodging cars and pedestrians who gazed after him in amazement. He arrived at the station in mere seconds and leapt over the lines of people for the departing train, landing on its roof. He hopped down onto the railing, not wanting to wait for the train to leave, and dashed along the tracks on the way to the Mystic Ruins.
Within minutes the green and rocky lanscape came into view. Sonic took a huge running leap toward Tails' workshop, sailing off of the railing and over the blue ocean waters below. He landed smoothly on the cliff's edge and dashed up the hill that the workshop stood on. His speed took him high into the air and he landed gracefully right in front of the door to the workshop. Sonic stood up and dusted himself off and proceeded to knock on the door, but it opened and revealed Tails' furry mug.
"Hey Sonic!" He said excitedly. "You're just in time! I already got the Tornado prepped up and ready to go."
"You sure everything's all set?" Sonic asked, concerned. "Nothing's gonna blow up in my face again, right?"
"Of course not! I tested the engine out this morning and it was fine."
Sonic gazed off to the side of the workshop where the runway was that ran toward the end of the cliff overlooking the sea. He didn't see the biplane however.
"So…where is it?" Sonic asked.
"Inside, of course!" Tails said. "Wait here, I'll get it out…"
Suddenly Sonic felt silly for asking such a question.
Tails disappeared back inside the workshop and closed the door, leaving Sonic alone outside. The hedgehog folded his arms and started to tap his foot again, staring mindlessly off to the side. After a few minutes of more waiting the workshop suddenly came to life. The wall facing the runway slowly folded down and out rolled the Tornado, looking nearly brand new after the accident it had a couple days ago. Tails reappeared from behind the biplane's tail, holding the blue chaos emerald in one hand and a pair of goggles in the other.
"Alright! Only one thing left to do." He said, walking up to Sonic and holding up the chaos emerald to him.
Sonic smiled and took the chaos emerald. He walked over to the front of the plane where the engine was and looked for the slot that it was supposed to fit in. When he found it he placed it inside with its flat top facing out and it snapped in place. It glimmered slightly, as if giving Sonic an "okay." Tails whirled his tails and hovered over the cockpit, gently easing himself in.
"Here it goes! Cross your fingers!" He exclaimed.
Tails flipped the ignition on and instantly the engine began to sputter to life. Sonic took a step back, bracing himself for another explosion. The chaos emerald began to glow fiercely as the engine slowly revved up. The Tornado's propeller began to spin and the biplane shook a little. Sonic frowned and started to get worried, but then the biplane suddenly erupted to life, humming softly and its propeller whirling at a high speed. It moved forward slightly as if it was begging to take to the skies. Tails looked at Sonic from the cockpit with a grin on his face.
"So far so good!" He shouted over the Tornado's roaring. "Hop on Sonic!"
Sonic smiled and hopped up to his old position; the center of the Tornado's upper wing. He knelt down on one knee and placed his hands on the wing to keep himself steady. He turned his head toward Tails, who was putting on his goggles. Tails looked up to him and gave him a thumbs-up, in which Sonic returned with a grin.
"Okay! Let's fly!" Tails shouted.
Sonic faced forward as the biplane began to move. The mechanical trees lining the sides of the runway parted away from it and the door that hid the Tornado in the workshop gradually lifted back up and locked shut behind them. Tails pressed the acceleration lever forward and they charged toward the edge of the cliff. Sonic retained his footing on the wing as their speed continually increased, his spines waving in the wind. They were quickly approaching the edge and Sonic felt nervous, a feeling he almost never feels, and he narrowed his eyes. Before they knew it, the last of the cliff vanished from underneath them and the Tornado soared out toward the endless blue. The small biplane sunk downward a little and Sonic felt his grip tighten even though he had nothing to hang onto. He hoped for the best in his mind as the biplane slowly lost altitude, but in the next moment the biplane's nose suddenly tilted upward as it slowly rose higher into the air. Sonic's eyes widened and a large grin spread across his face as they neared the sky, a feeling of overwhelming happiness filling his heart. He turned to look at Tails who also had a wide smile on his face.
"Lookin' good, Sonic!" He shouted over the roaring engine and the howling wind. "But let's test its handling!"
Tails then quickly turned the Tornado to the left, catching Sonic slightly off guard. He regained his footing as Tails tilted the biplane to the right, and then to the left, and to the right again. The Tornado glided through the air smoothly as Tails then angled it up and down, testing its performance. Tails then straightened the Tornado so that it flew level with the ocean below. Sonic turned back around at Tails.
"How's it looking down there, Tails?"
"Everything's a-okay!" He exclaimed. "None of my readings are detecting any problems and we have tons of power to keep us flying with the chaos emerald!"
"You did it little buddy!"
"We did it, Sonic!"
Sonic gave Tails a toothy grin and turned back around. He stood up on his feet so that he was now standing atop the wing like he used to, unflinching from the strong wind that blew against his body and retaining his balance. Sonic glanced down at the glittering ocean below as pleasant memories began to flood his mind. He folded his arms and stared ahead into the distance and could see Station Square far off to the left, the sun shining brightly high in the sky and adding to the warmth he already felt inside. For the first time in a good while, Sonic was happy about doing something other than running. His and Tails' hard work in the last few days had truly paid off after all.
Sonic gazed down at the ocean again, wondering how far up they were. Sonic's eyes suddenly widened as they caught a small flash of light right underneath the Tornado. There was an unmistakable loud clang and then another flash of light. Sonic moved over to the right side of the wing, bending down and trying to see what it was, but he couldn't see anything under the biplane or any traces of anything.
"What the heck was that?!" Sonic exclaimed at Tails, who had his head turned in the opposite direction toward Station Square.
Tails turned his head toward him, noticing Sonic's stare. "What?"
Sonic moved back to the center of the wing. "There was a flash of light right under us just now! Did something just hit the plane?"
Tails frowned. "What are you talking about, Sonic?"
"You didn't see it?"
Tails continued to stare.
"That light…" Sonic looked downward toward the direction he saw it. "If I didn't know better I'd say it kinda looked like…"
"I really don't know what you're talking about, Sonic." Tails frowned. He looked at the dashboard panel in the cockpit. "My scanners aren't detecting anything wrong…"
It was Sonic's turn to frown. "I coulda swore I saw something…"
"Hmm…ah, never mind…"
Sonic stood back on his feet and stared ahead. His mind was now conflicted with what he was sure wasn't his imagination. He couldn't help but shake the feeling that something wasn't right and started to feel rather worried, something he was hoping he wouldn't feel on a great day like this. The shape that he saw yesterday came to mind for some reason, but he was sure that it was just an animal and had nothing to do with that flash of light. After all, how could it?
"Uh oh…" Tails suddenly said.
Sonic turned around and looked down at him, frowning. "What is it?"
"We're slowly losing fuel…"
Tails looked down the side of the Tornado and Sonic did the same. Sure enough, a thin stream of fuel was spraying out from the bottom of the fuel tank underneath the biplane and falling toward the ocean below behind them.
"We'll have to turn around and head back!" Tails exclaimed, and Sonic nodded in agreement. He maintained his footing as Tails yanked the Tornado to the left and made a sharp turn to the opposite direction. Tails flew the biplane as fast as he could without sacrificing too much fuel and soon the cliffs of the Mystic Ruins came back into view. Tails eased the Tornado onto the runway and quickly slowed the biplane to a crawl as it approached the hanger of the workshop. Tails pressed a button in the cockpit and the large door slid downward until it formed a small ramp for the biplane. Tails stopped the Tornado just short of the hanger and hopped out of the cockpit and Sonic did the same, hopping off of the wing and landing next to Tails. The fox crouched down to look underneath the biplane to see where the opening was and Sonic watched him, noticing a small pool of fuel forming under the biplane. Sonic took a peek himself and quickly spotted a thin but long slash right in the center of the fuel tank's underside. Tails let out a heavy sigh.
"Well…looks like our flight's been cancelled for now…" He said, frowning. "I guess I'll just have to use my other plane for now."
Sonic stood up and looked down at his friend, somehow sensing his disappointment. He then smiled and placed a hand on Tails' shoulder.
"Ah, don't sweat it, little bro! I'd say today was a huge success! We got the Tornado to fly by using the chaos emerald and took it for a spin! It felt great to fly again, didn't it? I know I enjoyed it! And besides, a little scratch should be easy to fix, right?"
Tails looked up at the hedgehog.
"Right?" Sonic repeated and giving Tails' shoulder a little shake.
Tails slowly curled his lips into a smile. He then nodded.
"So how about we fix that tank? It's…well, kinda starting to stink a little…"
"Right!" Tails said cheerfully.
The two dashed inside the workshop and rummaged around the place for the right tools for the job. Within a few seconds Sonic emerged with a spare metal plate and a metal mask while Tails came out carrying a welding torch and a mask of his own. They both pulled their masks on and Sonic then tried to place the thin metal plate over the opening, spraying fuel all over the place. Once he managed to force the plate into its proper place, Tails clicked on the torch and carefully welded the plate in place. After several minutes of struggling and welding, they finally managed to fully repair the damage.
Sonic and Tails took their masks off and placed them back in the workshop. They walked back out and inspected their work and were pleased to see that the leak had stopped, though there was now fuel all over the ground as well as Sonic and Tails.
"Well, all done!" Tails said happily. "You know, I think that's the fastest we've ever done a repair on the Tornado."
"I'll say!" Sonic said, shaking his hands and breathing in the stench of fuel. "Though I think we should've drained the tank first. It really stinks now…"
Tails scratched the back of his head. "Yeah…that would've been a good idea… I guess I should wash it now, huh?"
"If you want to, I guess."
Sonic and Tails stared at each other for a while, and then Tails gave Sonic another smile.
"You don't have to help me if you don't want to."
Sonic grinned. "If you say so!"
The hedgehog then leapt into the air, spinning and landing atop the workshop. Tails followed his movement with his eyes. Sonic turned toward the direction of the train station and was about to spring toward it, but he stopped himself and turned his head toward Tails.
"It was great flying with you again, Tails." He said. He then gave Tails a thumbs-up. "Let's hang out again sometime!"
Tails gave a thumbs-up as well. "Same here Sonic. Come visit again soon!"
"See ya later, Tails!"
Sonic hopped down the workshop and dashed off toward the train station, waving a goodbye that the two-tailed fox returned. He zipped up the stairs while dodging a few departing tourists and jumped onto the roof of the dock. He stood up and gazed at Tails' workshop atop the cliff, seeing him head inside the hanger. He grinned and was about to jump down onto the railway when something caught the corner of his eye. He looked up at the bluffs overlooking the area and spotted something standing, or at least he thought it was standing, on the edge the bluff. He narrowed his eyes, staring hard at whatever it was he was seeing, but within an instant, it suddenly vanished without a trace. Sonic blinked and continued to stare at the spot, but he couldn't see anything. He looked away, unsure whether or not his mind was playing tricks on him. Was that the same silhouette he saw yesterday?
Sonic shook his head and shrugged it off, thinking how silly that thought was, and tried to push it out his mind. He jumped down to the railway and dashed down it back towards Station Square, his smile slowly returning to his face.
Sonic continuously stared at the silent tombstone with a smile on his face all the while.
"I'm sorry I couldn't visit you sooner, Tails." He began confidently. "I've been meaning to visit you for a while, but…things have been a little rough these days."
Sonic gazed around at all the wilted flowers around the tombstone. "I see some of the others have visited you already. That's very nice of them. Sorry but…I didn't bring anything for you today. I'm not really a flowers kind of guy."
Sonic stretched out a hand and picked up the larger two of the bouquets of flowers, which still had most of their life and color, and read their tags.
"Let's see…this one's from Amy…and this one's from Vanilla, Cream and Cheese…heh. I figured they would leave you the largest ones. At least they're not for me this time…"
He placed the bouquets back down and picked up the bundle of roses.
"Hmm…this one's from Rouge. I never would've thought that she would leave something for you, or anyone for that matter. I still remember the time you told me about how she kissed you. Your face was as red as these roses! I never did stop teasing you about it, did I?"
He chuckled a little, and then he set the roses down and picked up the single but very large flower, which was probably in the worst shape out of all of them.
"Big…the Cat…wow. I thought the guy had completely forgotten us after that mess with Metal Sonic. Oh and…Froggy? I think that's what this says. Geez, he sure has bad handwriting…"
Sonic set down the flower and picked up the last bouquet. He read the nametag and he chuckled a bit.
"Heh heh, even Knucklehead left you some flowers! Who would've thought, considering the 'tough guy' that he is!"
Sonic let out a laugh, another thing he hadn't done in a long time. After a minute or so he started to calm down again, retaining a grin on his face.
"Speaking of Knuckles, did you know that he actually left the island? Well, not forever, but considering how much time he spends there its pretty strange. I guess even Knuckles can get bored of watching the Master Emerald sometimes. I know I would after like, five minutes. He must've placed it in the Hidden Palace or something, seeing how the island is still in the sky. Of course, now I'm gonna have take him back up to it whenever he decides to go back. Don't worry, though. There's no way I'm gonna let him fly one of your planes up there! After all, he nearly got us all killed when he drove the shuttle to the ARK with his stellar piloting skills."
Sonic took in a deep breath and continued on, smiling still.
"Amy's doing alright, I guess. She doesn't chase me around all over the place like she used to, thankfully. But she is asking me if I'm okay all the time. Don't worry, I am! It's just different to hear something else outta her mouth other than 'I love you, Sonic!' Come to think of it, I don't really see her around that much. She probably just hangs out with Cream or something. She always finds something to busy herself with, whether it's me or…well, I don't know what else Amy does in her spare time to be honest. Cream's doing okay too. She and Vanilla still take good care of Gemerl when they're not out and about. Eggman's been pretty quiet too. No one has heard about him since his last wild plan to take over the world. I tell ya, that guy needs a new hobby or something. If he does show up again though you can bet I'll be around to take him down!"
Sonic paused for a while, trying to find something else to talk about but he soon found it.
"I know what you're thinking. Relax, little bro, I've been taking care of the Tornado. She's still in awesome condition after we repaired it. It's how I got here after all! I even gave her a wash a week ago. Your Cyclone though…well, not as much. You might hate me for this, but I did try to give it a test run of my own. Thing is, I couldn't even get it to move! I don't see how you could control that thing; it's so much different from the Tornado. I guess that's one reason why you're such a little mechanical genius."
Sonic turned his head away from the tombstone and gazed at the environment around him. From the top of the hill he could see the entirety of Emerald Hill as well as a city in the distance. He spotted many loops and platforms and waterfalls among the grassland, though it was empty as can be. Sonic's smile started to grow a little as memories began to fill his mind. He took a deep breath and sighed.
"Do you remember how we first met? You probably don't, since you were so little. I was just running around when suddenly you came out of nowhere with Eggman chasing you. He snatched you right out of the sky and I went after him all over the place, through caverns and hills and even the inside of a mountain. I destroyed another one of his Sonic robots and soon I found you! You followed me everywhere all the time and I used to show off my mad speed and skills to all the other little animals here. I taught you how to do the spin dash, but then you surprised everyone when you started flying with your tails! It was amazing! Man, I'll never forget that day. And then Eggman came back and made robots out of all the animals again. And that marked our first adventure together! Remember how we used to team up and smash Eggman's machines to pieces over and over again? I always loved the look on his face as he flew away. We always did make an awesome team, didn't we? Eggman never stood a chance whenever we were on his tail!"
Sonic laughed again, louder and longer than before. But a gust of wind drowned out his laughter with its howl and the silence underneath slowly reminded him that he was alone. There was no one laughing along with him or anyone to accompany him on his adventures across the world. His smile slowly faded into a frown and he felt his eyes start to burn, but he held it. He wasn't going to let his friend see him cry, alive or dead. He used to always tell Tails, "Crying isn't cool," and he wasn't about to break his disposition and pride that always showed no matter what the situation was. Words started to echo in his head, words that tore at his thoughts and his heart every time they crossed his mind. They wanted to escape from his lips, but he held them back time and time again whenever images of the two-tailed fox swirled before his eyes. But at the same time, he deserved to know, he needed to admit it, and he had to hear it for himself to believe. He turned his head to the side for a moment, and then he faced the tombstone and stared hard at it, his face and eyes firm.
"I miss you, little buddy…"
His voice was barely above a whisper, but still as clear as day. He swallowed hard, surprised at the amount of effort it took to say those words that he had been meaning to say for a long time. His heart beat hard in his chest and he pushed the burning of his eyes away. He stared silently at the tombstone and he started to relax, breathing slowly. He reached his hand out and slowly placed it upon the top of the tombstone, surprised that it felt warmer than he thought it would. Even though he wouldn't admit it to himself, he enjoyed the solitude of the moment. It was still just him and his best friend now, just like it used to be whenever they hung out together.
Still…it just…wasn't the same…
But just as he felt his mind clearing, his senses caught movement behind him. He stood up quickly, his fists clenched tightly. His eyes darted quickly back and forth, searching for the source. He could feel a pair of eyes upon him, and if they belonged to someone who wished him harm, he was ready to pound the head of whatever it was that chose to interrupt his peaceful visit. He searched all around him and didn't find anything out of the ordinary. He began to think that he was just being paranoid when his eyes landed on the small group of trees nearby. He spotted the outline of someone standing among the trees, eyeing him continuously. Sonic leaned forward and raised his fists, ready to spring if necessary. The figure moved out from behind the tree slowly and revealed someone who Sonic never would have expected to find here. He stood up straighter, his eyes widening.
Sonic turned the volume up on the boom box on the table next to him. He had his legs crossed on the seat and a nice cup of cool juice with a straw in his hand and he took a long sip from it. He then placed it back on the table, bobbing his head and foot to the beat of the music that was playing. He watched the sun sink into the sea with a grin, enjoying the scenery it created across the open ocean, lighting it with sparkles and rays of orange light across the clear sky. After flying with Tails he had spent the rest of the day running across the white beaches of Emerald Coast near Station Square. Even though he had been here many times, he still enjoyed dashing along its coast and the blue sea, but the same could be said about all the many places he has seen during his adventures.
He breathed in the salty air and took another sip from his juice. His ear then perked up when he heard a faint ring from his radio on the table that he still had. Curious, he took it and held it in his hand.
"Hmm, Tails probably needs help with something again." He pressed the button to turn it on. "What's up, Tails?"
The sound of strong static met his ears from the radio and his eyes narrowed.
He examined the radio, making sure nothing was wrong with it.
"Tails, you there?"
The static continued to screech from it, growing louder and softer every few seconds. Sonic shook the small device a little and poked at some of the other buttons along the side, but the static continued. "What's with this thing?"
The static suddenly lessened and Sonic could hear a voice crying out from the speaker. He listened closely, trying to hear the voice in between the loud static.
"Tails, is that you?" He called into it, listening harder. He then caught the voice again a little clearer as the static died down again.
"Tails?" Sonic called again. "What is it? What's going on?"
More static, followed by: "…Sonic…I…"
Sonic was starting to become a little worried now. "Tails, talk to me! What's going on?"
The static got much louder for a moment, making Sonic hold the radio a little further away from his face, but then it quickly died down.
"…I'm sorry…I messed up…"
"What are you talking about?"
The static increased in volume again, but then Sonic heard a loud crack from the speaker and the sound of something crashing or breaking. Sonic stood up from his seat with wide eyes, dropping his cup of juice into the sand.
The static died down again. "…Sonic…please…"
A loud boom came from the radio before a piercing high-pitched noise, and then it clicked and became silent.
"Tails!" Sonic exclaimed into the now dead line. "Tails!"
Sonic squeezed the radio in his hand before letting it slip out of his grasp. It fell and sunk into the sand as Sonic dashed off down the beachfront at lightning speed, breezing by a few confused people and quickly making his way back to the entrance of the Emerald Coast. He slid left and right, kicking up sand and ran across the surface of the water until he arrived back at the entrance. He ran up the wall of the nearest building and landed cleanly at the top and then he leapt from rooftop to rooftop, making his way toward the train station as quickly as he could. A few people from below stared up in wonder at the blue blur before resuming their quiet lives, entirely unaware of the urgency that was raging in Sonic's mind. Sonic landed on the roof of the train station and dropped down onto the railing, immediately taking off along it in the blink of an eye and leaving a cloud of dust behind.
He soared across the railing, running faster than he had in a long time. Within seconds he had left the outer limits of Station Square and sailed across the open ocean as it traveled towards the Mystic Ruins. His heart raced, even though it never did while he was running, but somehow this desperate situation affected him like no other one he had been in before. Sonic leapt above an oncoming train as it passed underneath him by mere inches. He flipped forward and landed on his feet and dashed off again, ignoring that he nearly got hit by a train for not paying attention. A terrible feeling was creeping into his heart, almost as if it was a sign that he wasn't moving fast enough. Sonic leaned forward and forced his legs to move even faster, the air howling past him and the world blurring by. The rocky cliffs of the Mystic Ruins soon came into view, and Sonic immediately noticed something unusual about the area. He quickly slowed down and leapt atop the roof of the train station, raising his head up. In the distance beyond the rock walls of the area he could see thick, dark smoke clouds rising up into the air slowly even though the sky had gotten darker and the sun had completely sunk into the ocean. Sonic jumped down and dashed into the nearest tunnel in the hopes that it would take him toward the smoke.
He ran through the tunnels, turning left and right and hoping up any ledges that would take him further into the cave and closer to his goal. He made his way deeper and deeper into the caves, each corner and path identical to another. At last he made it out of the cave and into open air, but the dusty and rocky area he had ended up in didn't seem familiar at all. He gazed up into the sky and searched for the smoke and could just see it in the sky above the rock walls, but now it looked further away than before. Sonic growled, knowing that he had taken a wrong turn somewhere. He dashed back into the cave, trying to retrace his steps and take a different path. But with each turn, with each new path, with each open area he zoomed past, it quickly began to dawn on Sonic that he didn't remember his way through the Mystic Ruins. His mind raced and the darkness of the night only furthered his frustration as it made it harder for him to navigate his way through the maze of the Mystic Ruins.
Sonic skidded to a halt into another open, hilly area of the Ruins. He whipped his head back and forth, trying to find something, anything that was familiar. He clenched his fists tightly.
"Dang it!" Sonic cursed, his heart getting heavier by the moment. "Where are you…?"
The silence around him was more than he could bear. He waited for some kind of voice, some calling to lead him in the right direction, but knew very well he wasn't going to get one. Sonic closed his eyes tightly, baring his teeth.
"Where are you, Tails!?" He shouted up to the sky. The air answered back with deathly silence.
Sonic's legs trembled. They wanted to dash off again in any direction, but his heart denied it, knowing it would be useless. He wanted to collapse to the ground in defeat, but such action went against everything he believed in. He couldn't give up. He had to find Tails. He had to make sure he was safe…
His ears suddenly perked up. He could hear something coming from the path on his left that narrowed into another tunnel. It sounded like howling from a breeze, like nature's voice coming forth from the tunnel. Sonic turned his head toward it, frowning. A warm feeling gripped his chest as he stared down its path, warmth that felt reassuring…a calling of some sort…
Sonic dashed into the tunnel without another thought. He zipped back and forth, being careful not to run into anything that could hinder his progress. He was relieved that the tunnel had only one path to follow, but he didn't relax in the slightest. He saw the exit up ahead and ran faster to greet it, and within a second the cool night air met his face, but he came to a complete halt as it led straight to a ledge with a ladder leading down into the forest below. His eyes widened.
There it was, the Mystic Temple, accompanied by a cloud of thick smoke on its side that was coming from an orange flickering light hidden by the trees below. Sonic's mind raced again, coming to conclusions that he refused to believe unless he saw it with his own eyes. He took several steps back, got a running start, and leapt into the air as far as he could toward the smoke and the light and fell into the forest below. He quickly spun into a ball and did a mid-air dash to gain a little more distance before he fell through the branches of the trees and landed in a stream that flowed across the forest floor. He took off toward the flickering light, bobbing and weaving between the trees, hanging vines and ancient ruins. With a little difficulty, he arrived at a clearing near the base of the Temple and froze on the spot.
Bits and pieces of metal were scattered across the ground, and further away across the clearing was the mangled wreck of a plane against a leaning stone pillar, almost completely engulfed in flames. Sonic's eyes darted upward and he spotted it; a dark silhouette of a figure standing atop the pillar and looking down at the fiery wreck. Sonic dashed toward the wreck, stretching out his hand.
The silhouette leapt into the air and vanished into the night sky as Sonic neared it. He ignored it as he approached the wreck, and then his body was thrown into the air as the wreck exploded in a fireball, slamming Sonic's body with a wave of force and heat that sent him flying backward. He smashed into a large tree with a loud crack, a flash of light seared in his mind and he fell limply to the ground face first. His head spun with pain and he felt his skin burn from the explosion. He slowly lifted himself up with his arms but they quickly gave away and he fell again. He stretched his head up and gazed at the smoldering plane crash, using his arms to crawl toward it as his legs felt numb and wouldn't work. His vision faded in and out and he thought he could hear the sound of running footsteps coming toward him.
Sonic's head then fell to the ground as he lost consciousness, but not before his eyes fell upon the burnt, battered, broken body of Tails several feet away…
The black and crimson striped hedgehog emerged from the group of trees, unfolding his arms and walking toward Sonic. Sonic stared at him, unsure of his intentions as his eyes were always unreadable. Shadow approached him slowly and stopped a few feet away, staring back with a frown. Sonic lowered his fists slightly.
"What are you doing here?" He asked.
"To see if I can pull you out of this slump you've been in for the last month and a half." Shadow replied firmly.
"What? Why…?" Sonic said, still unsure of him.
"You're friends asked me to. Apparently all of them have tried and they wouldn't stop bothering me until I agreed to try and help too."
Sonic's arms dropped to his sides. He turned his head back toward the grave behind him and stared at it in silence, his thoughts drifting elsewhere. He could feel Shadow's gaze on his back, making him uncomfortable. He then softly said, "Did they really say that?"
"Do you really think I'd be here otherwise?"
Sonic's eyes narrowed as he felt a spark in his mind. Shadow sighed and turned his head to the side.
"Look, Sonic. Your friends are worried about you. They said they haven't even seen you run around anywhere in a long time. All you've been doing is skulking around and quite frankly I'm sick of it. What happened to the cocky, smug blue hedgehog I used to know?"
Sonic continued to stare at the grave. "I don't know…"
"You don't know?"
Sonic shook his head slightly.
"Look at me, hedgehog."
Sonic kept his eyes glued upon the grave.
"You wanna know what I think?" Shadow said.
Sonic didn't reply.
"It's because you don't know how to deal with your loss." Shadow continued. "You've lived a carefree lifestyle your entire life. Your friends have always been there for you, and you've always been there for them. You have had many adventures and many victories. But now you have finally failed, and you don't know how to deal with it."
It was somewhat unnerving at how accurate Shadow's words were. He figured that his friends had already told him what they thought beforehand and he had created his own opinion as a result. But he had heard these words before, time and time again, and now even he was getting tired of hearing them. Sonic swallowed hard and cleared his mind again, thinking hard about his following words.
"Okay…so maybe I don't know how to deal with this." He said softly, swallowing his pride. "Stuff like this doesn't exactly happen every day, you know?"
"Yes…I know…" Shadow said softly.
"So what am I supposed to do now?" Sonic said, clenching his fists.
"Sonic, look at me." Shadow replied.
Sonic didn't move.
"It would be best if you just put this whole ordeal behind you."
Sonic lifted one of his fists up and stared at it. "I don't know if I can…"
"And why's that?" Shadow asked, folding his arms.
Sonic thought carefully for a moment before saying, "I don't want to."
Shadow huffed and turned his head away. "You do realize you're only hurting yourself, right? And you're quickly reaching the point where your moping around is starting to affect the way your friends feel as well."
"I know…" Sonic said softly.
"So what is your deal?"
Sonic stood in thought again and then let out a slow breath. "I just want to know why."
"Why it had to happen." Sonic answered, lowering his head.
"I just can't believe that it happened. I should've been there, but I wasn't."
"Knock it off." Shadow said firmly. "This isn't like you at all."
"What do you know about me?" Sonic said, feeling a fuse being lit now. "You spend most of your time dealing with your own problems and worrying about yourself. You don't know anything about me!"
"I do know that you used to be selfless in pretty much every situation you've been in." Shadow retorted. "And now I think I'm seeing the opposite, not that I could really blame you."
"Then why are you here?" Sonic said turning his head slightly toward Shadow. "I know you have better things to do!"
Shadow unfolded his arms and clenched his own fists. "You know why I'm here."
"Then just leave me alone!" Sonic snapped, throwing his arm down. "I just wanna be left alone now! I can deal with this by myself! I always have! And I always will! I just…"
"What?" Shadow said, clearly starting to become irritated.
"I just can't believe I couldn't save him this time. I hate to think about it, but now I know it's true! I could've saved him, but I didn't! I just…I just wasn't fast enough!"
"Don't be ridiculous!" Shadow snapped. "That's not true and you know it!"
"Then why, Shadow!?" Sonic shouted, his face burning. He looked up toward the gloomy sky. "Why is he dead!? Why is he now buried underneath a rock and not standing next to me and having a good time!? Why does it still hurt so much!?"
Shadow stood silent for a moment, but then he sighed and narrowed his eyes.
"What happened to Tails is something you couldn't control! You know that! You need to stop thinking that he died because of you as that is hardly the case and will you look at me dammit!"
Sonic frowned, but slowly turned around and finally faced Shadow who wore a look he hadn't seen before. They quickly made eye contact and stared at each other unflinchingly and in silence for several long moments. Neither would break his gaze for fear of showing weakness, something they didn't want to do and something they both had in common. Shadow folded his arms again and Sonic narrowed his eyes. Sonic tried to read his crimson eyes and saw something in them he hadn't noticed until now. The fierceness he usually saw in them was gone and had been replaced by emotion. His eyes said that they meant well and intended to show sympathy and only wanted to help his cause, something that he used to only see in his closest friends. He suddenly began to feel a little guilty and a hidden understanding started to sink in. He slowly began to relax and let his arms drop to his sides.
Shadow took in a deep breath. "Tails may be gone, but you still have your memories of him. You and Tails had lots of them, so cherish them. Remember him for who he was to you, your friend. Don't remember him by how he died. I may not have known him like you, but I'm positively sure that Tails wouldn't have wanted you to mourn his loss. He would've wanted you to be happy regardless of whatever happened to him. You would want the same thing if he were you, am I right?"
Sonic took in each of Shadow's words, letting them sink in slowly. He then nodded. "Yeah. I wouldn't want him to be sad. I would've wanted him to move on…"
"Exactly." Shadow nodded. "So why don't you do just that? A part of him will always be with you no matter what happens, as a part of you was always with him, even in the end."
Sonic listened, but somehow still felt confused. "What do you mean?"
"Have you forgotten what you once told me?" Shadow asked, unfolding his arms.
Sonic shook his head.
"I was created as a weapon of war, but Professor Gerald gave me a heart and a soul. He did this so that I would never use my power recklessly or without reason. He also did this so that I would always have her with me, no matter what."
Shadow slowly lifted his hand and placed it over his chest. "A part of Tails will always be within your heart, Sonic. Never forget that."
A gentle breeze blew through the air and Sonic lowered his head. He lifted his own hand and placed it over his chest. He then slowly closed his eyes. His body suddenly felt warmer as memories filled his mind. A vision of Tails then swam into view. His back was toward him, but his orange fur was full of color. Tails then turned around and looked at him and his bright blue eyes were filled with light. He smiled innocently and his eyes seemed to glow brighter with radiance and life and happiness.
"Sonic…" Said his voice as it echoed in his memory. "Never forget…okay?"
Sonic clenched his hand into a tight fist and his eyes closed tighter.
Sonic suddenly snapped his eyes back open. He saw Shadow with his back to him and was walking down the hill away from him. Sonic stepped toward him.
"Hey Shadow, wait a second!"
Shadow came to a halt and turned around, looking up at him silently.
"Can I ask you something?"
Shadow frowned. "What?"
"Did you really come here just because my friends asked you to?"
Shadow stared at him. "…Maybe."
"Maybe now, is it?"
Shadow folded his arms and turned his head to the side as if he was embarrassed.
"…Nobody else ever needs to go through the things I have."
Sonic stared at Shadow, but he finally felt that he understood what he was trying to tell him all along.
"I remember…something Maria used to tell me…" Shadow said softly, turning his head back to Sonic.
"What's that?" Sonic asked, curious.
"She used to tell me that friendship was just another form of love. Love is eternal and strong and will remain no matter what as long as our hearts are strong as well. Perhaps that's why you and Tails had such a strong bond, and still do."
Sonic slowly stretched his lips into a smile. "I guess the same could be said about you and Maria, then."
Shadow looked away again. Sonic glanced at the tombstone and smiled. He then started to walk down the hill toward Shadow to leave. The black hedgehog watched him as Sonic passed him. Sonic then stopped next to the group of trees and turned around back to Shadow. They stared at one another for a moment, their faces without expression. Sonic then smiled again.
"What?" Shadow said.
"Thanks…" Sonic replied.
Shadow turned his head away. "Hmph. Don't thank me. Thank your friends."
"But you are a friend. Or at least I like to think of you as one."
Shadow frowned, but then he slowly curved his lips into a smile of his own.
Sonic's smile widened to a grin. He turned back around and took a few steps forward but then stopped again. He turned his head back and looked at the tombstone. He placed his hand over his heart again, lowered his head and closed his eyes.
"…I'll never forget." He whispered. "You'll always be with me…little bro."
Sonic opened his eyes and stared into the distance. The breeze no longer felt cold and the sky was no longer dull. He listened to the sounds around him; the rustling of the trees nearby, the crashing of the waves from the ocean, he could even hear the chirping of a few birds further down the hill. He took in a deep breath, breathing in a new life into his heart, as he let one single tear trickle slowly down his cheek. He then dashed off down the hill in a blaze of speed that hadn't been seen in some time, putting the past behind him and looking forward, ready to see the future that awaited.
Shadow stared after him and his smile quickly faded away. He sighed heavily and suddenly felt unsure of himself if he had done the right thing. Sure, he felt a welcome warm feeling, but nevertheless he also felt that something was bothering him. He watched the blue hedgehog vanish into the distance and then he gazed at his surroundings. He was alone now with the exception of the tombstone behind him and he couldn't feel any abnormal energies nearby.
Shadow reached around and pulled out the blue chaos emerald. He held it up to his face and gazed into the magnificent gem, his reflection glaring back at him. It had a soft glow to it and he could feel the incredible power that it held within, waiting to be unleashed. He then looked up, feeling suddenly paranoid and lowered his hand, his eyes darting back and forth. He then stared back at the gem.
"Somehow…someday…somewhere…" He muttered softly, but with an ice cold fierceness that few have ever heard. "I'll find you again…"
He lowered his arms to his sides and looked up toward the sky, the clouds darkening with an impending storm.
"I'll find you…"
Shadow lifted the hand with the chaos emerald, and then he vanished in a flash of bright blue light.