This is a story that I thought of late at night, when I was supposed to be sleeping. Shadow is supposed to be immortal, which means that A: he can't die, and B: he can't grow old. So what happens when everyone he knows continues to age while his body remains frozen? This is my answer for that.
Disclaimer: I'll take the usual, please.
Shadow the Hedgehog sat awkwardly on the sofa chair in his counterpart's house, surrounded by smiles and laughter and voices talking of their past adventures. He found that he often felt out of place here now, at these reunions. It wasn't because of his attitude; he had always been silent and withdrawn, coming across as the strong silent type that knows nothing but anger. But the truth was that he wasn't always angry. He had found happiness with Sonic and Amy and Tails and Knuckles and Rouge, even if it was in its barest form. Even Cream and Cheese had grown on him, though he would never admit to it. But that was a long time ago. Things were different now.
How long had it been? He often found himself wondering this in the last year. How long ago had he encountered the cobalt hedgehog and his friends for the first time? It seemed like a lifetime ago…but maybe it had been. Sonic would surely know. Sonic remembered things like that. But then again, Sonic had a reason to remember. He had made the most of his time during his entire life. Sonic had made friends, as well as enemies. Sonic had fought some losing battles and had somehow come out on top, time after time after time. Sonic had loved, Sonic had hated. Sonic had gained, Sonic had lost. Sonic had a real life.
Not like Shadow. Shadow had spent most of his time hating everything, loving nothing. He had been focused on revenge for many years, and there was still that image so clear in his mind of a blond haired twelve year old girl and her scientist grandfather. They had been taken from him so long ago now, most had forgotten all about it. But not Shadow. Those two were the only family he had ever known. He remembered Maria as clear as though it was just yesterday, and he would continue to remember her for as long as he drew breath.
Which would be forever.
The ebony hedgehog was snapped out of his thoughts by the sometimes too familiar voice, and he looked into the face of his long-time rival Sonic the Hedgehog. Shadow could not help but notice the greying quills on Sonic's body, the stiff way he moved, the deepening wrinkles in his face. All were signs that reminded Shadow of what he was.
"Are you having a good time, Shads?" Sonic asked with one of his signature smiles.
Shadow remained silent and looked away from him, sweeping his eyes over the others in this room. Tails—the cute orange fox kit who was a prodigy of all things technological—was now streaked with grey fur. His tails hung limp and useless, and his once bright blue eyes had dulled with age. Knuckles—the red echidna intent on protecting the Master Emerald for so long—had to use a wheelchair to get around now. Amy's once bright pink quills had lost most of their colour now, though her eyes remained bright in her love for Sonic. Rouge had long since given up on her high-heel boots, but still did her best to hide her age. Her bent posture and wrinkled eyes gave her up too easily. Even little Cream was too old now to manage on her own, and her little Chao had long since passed. Eggman was already gone.
"Shadow?" Sonic's aged voice said his name again and all eyes turned to him.
Shadow felt like he was in a twilight zone, as though he was looking at a picture of the future. This future had no room for him, yet somehow, he was squeezed into the middle of it all. Cream and Tails, Sonic and Amy, and Knuckles and Rouge had all moved on with their lives. They were all happily married and had children of their own, while Shadow remained alone.
But he didn't want to be alone.
In a flash, the black and red hedgehog stood from his chair and bolted out the door of Sonic's house too fast for any of them to catch him. Not that it mattered anymore, anyways.
Shadow ran for only a few seconds until he came to the area he was headed for: Freedom HQ. It was now nothing more than an old crumbling brick building, but it was a building that had once meant something to Mobians. It was a place that had once represented not only hope, peace, and justice, but it also represented friendship. Though that legacy lived on in Sonic, Rouge, Amy, Tails, Knuckles, and all the others, Shadow still had trouble taking that with him. He had no hope for a better life; all he could hope for was a pain-free existence. He had no peace in his tormented memories and dreams of the life he should have had. He had no justice in an unjust world that stole his family early on in his life. He had no friends because of the combination of the first three.
There was a slight whoosh behind him, and a tired voice asked, "Hey, are you okay, Shadow?"
He didn't have to turn to know who it was. "You shouldn't be out at this time of night," Shadow replied emotionless. "The last thing you need is pneumonia."
"Nah, a little cold couldn't keep me down," Sonic said with a chuckle. He moved so that he stood beside Shadow, who was staring at the old building distantly. "I thought I'd find you out here."
Shadow chuckled quietly. "You know me too well, Sonic."
"Yes, well that's what happens with age."
"I suppose so."
Sonic glanced over at the black hedgehog. "What's up, Shads?"
"Time," he said simply.
Sonic scratched his head in confusion. "Huh?"
Shadow turned to him and his crimson eyes connected with Sonic's green ones, a silent message passing between the two. Sonic looked away. "Oh."
The two were silent for a few moments before Shadow said, "You'll be leaving soon, won't you?"
Sonic nodded solemnly. "I'm afraid so."
"And everyone else, too. All of you…Everyone I know will be gone. And…I'll be—" His voice broke slightly. Shadow took a deep breath and pushed his lips together, but Sonic already knew.
"You'll be alone again," he finished.
Shadow gave a faint nod. "Why did he have to make me like this?" he asked quietly. "Why do I have to sit back and watch everything leave me behind? Why did Gerald have to make me…ageless?"
He felt a gentle hand on his shoulder. "I don't know, Shads. But if you ask me, you're the lucky one."
Shadow looked at him as though he's lost his mind. "Lucky?" he scoffed, pulling away from Sonic. "You think I'm lucky? Let me tell you something, Sonic: you are the lucky one. You had a life. You had love, as well as hate; friends, as well as enemies. You had youth, you had old age. You were carefree and happy through your entire life! I haven't had any of that! All I've had is pain, disappointment, and betrayal! All I can ever hope for is pain, disappointment, and betrayal! I'll watch everyone that I know grow old and die, while I remain exactly the same! How can you say that I'm lucky?" He was shouting by the end of it, but Sonic remained still, with a patient smile on his lips.
"Don't you see, Shadow?" Sonic asked gently. "That's exactly why you're lucky. Us others…when we make mistakes, there's no going back. We get one shot at life; one chance to get it right. And if we don't, tough luck. On our deathbeds, we'll be wishing for just one more day on this earth. You, on the other hand," he said with a smile, "get forever. You get so many chances to make the right choice. You get so many chances to find your love and hatred. You can make so many friends, and yes, they will die eventually. But it's the time you spend with them that is important. It's through your memories that they live on. Like Maria."
Shadow's breath caught in his throat. "M—Maria?"
Sonic nodded. "I never knew that girl, Shadow, but between what you've said about her and the obvious effect she had on your life, I can tell she was a beautiful girl and a great friend. She lives on through you, dude."
Shadow felt water spring to his eyes. "But…I don't know if I can take that again. I…I don't think I can lose another…"
"Of course you can!" Sonic declared. "You're the Ultimate Lifeform!"
Shadow shook his head, a few desperate tears finding their way out of his eyes and rolling down his cheeks. "I don't want to live like this, Sonic. I would rather be an ordinary lifeform than to be as I am now. This is not a life."
Sonic looked at Shadow, his pity showing in his eyes. He had never in his life seen the black hedgehog in this state. Shadow had never been one to express his emotions except for anger and frustration, but now Sonic knew how upset he really was. "Shadow…"
"I can save the world," Shadow interrupted. "I can teleport space stations the size of the moon and freeze time while I remain capable of movement. But no matter what I do…I can't stop you from aging. I can't save you or Rouge or Knuckles or Tails or Amy. Just like I couldn't save Maria. I don't deserve to have a second chance, because no matter how many chances I have, I'll never be good enough." He turned to leave, but Sonic grabbed his wrist and held him back.
"Now you listen here, Shadow," he said forcefully enough for Shadow to look at him again. "And listen good! You have one of the best lives there is to have, and do you know why that is? It's because you have people that love you! Any of us would gladly give our lives if it meant that you could live yours, and it's not just us. All our kids love you, too, Shadow. When they lose us, they'll still have you. And while you're out here sulking, there's a houseful of people back there worrying about you! Yeah, I'm old. Yeah, I'm going to die soon. Yeah, you're going to live forever. But don't you dare go around saying you don't deserve a second chance, because as far as I'm concerned, you deserve it more than anyone!"
"You don't understand," Shadow said, his eyes downcast.
"No, you don't understand. Have you even been listening to what I've been saying? You're too stubborn and insecure to see that every living being on this planet envies you! We only have so many years to make our mark on the world, but you have forever. You can change the world a million times if you want to! You have so much power…I could never even dream of being as powerful as you."
Shadow allowed a slight smile to appear on his lips. "You're finally admitting it?"
Sonic ran a hand through his greying quills. "Well, I figure I'm too old to be your rival now anyways. But for what it's worth, I was always the cooler one."
"Get over yourself, old-timer," Shadow replied with mock seriousness. "Or I just might decide to stop going easy on you."
Sonic laughed openly. "Watch who you're calling old, Faker. You're the one that was fifty years old before we even met."
Shadow smiled. It didn't matter how old he got, Sonic would still be the same hedgehog.
"So whadda'ya say we have one last race, Shads?"
Shadow was surprised by his request. "A race? You know you can't win, right?"
Sonic looked offended. "What? Because of my age? Listen, I may be old, but I'm still the fastest thing in the world."
"Second fastest," the black hedgehog corrected. "And don't call me 'Shads"
With that, the two took off, not even knowing where they would go. Shadow purposefully kept his pace considerably slower than what he was capable of, because despite all his talk, Sonic could not run as fast as he used to be able to. But that was okay. It felt good to run side-by-side with the blue hedgehog again. It felt natural. It made him feel…alive.
Shadow glanced over at his…His what? Would 'companion' be right? 'Associate'? 'Comrade'?
But when Sonic looked back at him and smiled his same old signature smile, the perfect word came to mind: friend.
"Shadow?" Sonic called over the wind whistling past their ears.
"Promise me one thing."
Sonic smiled again. "Promise you'll learn to live."
Time seemed to freeze for a moment, and in that moment, Shadow realized something. All the time he had spent missing Maria and Gerald was time that he'd wasted, while he should have been looking for purpose. Instead of dwelling on the tragedies of his past, he should have been searching for ways to make his future better. Instead of seeing only what he had lost, he should have been thankful for what he had in front of him all along.
Why is it that we don't see what we have until we lose it all?
Shadow looked back at his blue friend, suddenly feeling much better. "I promise."
Yes, he was going to live forever. Yes, he would lose people that he loved. But none of that mattered. What mattered was right here, right now, with the people he cared about. With the people who cared about him. These were the moments he would remember; these were the moments he would cherish. His destiny could wait. The world could wait. After all, he had forever to work at those things; because he would never grow old, because he would never die.
Because he was ageless.
A/N: So what do you think? Was it good? Bad? Realistic? Crazy? Sad? Horrific? if you're gonna flame me, please do it in a nice way. I appreciate polite people.
One last thing: If I have enough requests, I'll eventually do an afterwards story of this. Tell me what you think (you can mention it in a review or a PM, your choice).
Press the button; you know you want to.