So where'd this come from two years later, right? An FFN friend by the name of RedFireGreenThunder5 asked if I would do a version of it from Sonic's POV. Instead I've decided to do something that I'm hoping will be even better, which is continuing the story… and in the process, give Sonic a bit more exposure to the water, and readers a bit more exposure to what the blue blur thinks of all this. (Hope that's cool with you, RedFire!)

This story's kinda precious to me. I had nearly a year-long hiatus over a bit of 2009 and a lot of 2010. I stopped updating due to a normal writer's block that just kept going. But this got a great response. It led me to re-read it sometime later, and I was like, 'I typed this?' because it had been so long since I had typed anything, and I was surprised at how… well… decent it was.

Long story short, this story and it the response it got pulled me back to FFN. If not for that, I'm certain The Dark Side of the Moon would have gone unfinished and Survivor's Resolve would never have been started. Speaking of Survivor's Resolve, for those of you reading it… yeah, Sonic and water are pretty tight lately, huh? XD But this is a totally different thing than that recent chapter. More spirited, and less… well, y' know. ;)

Oh, and for anyone who cares, I listened to a song called 'Day Becomes Night' by Two Steps From Hell while typing a lot of this. It's an instrumental that could probably be interpreted in a lot of ways, but to me it sounds like soft courage. :) This continues right where the previous chapter left off. Enjoy! :D

xxx

2: Exposure

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First person: Sonic.
xxx

I put my socks, shoes and gloves back on, stood up tall, and scratched my nose.

Though I was still trembling, I smiled as I gazed out over the shimmering lake. No one knew it, but water was a greater challenge to me than Eggman was. Wonder what he'd think if I told him that. 'That puddle over there is more of a threat than you!' Good way to irk him sometime. I'd have to remember that.

On second thought, maybe that wasn't a good idea. I didn't exactly want to remind him I wasn't fond of water. For all I knew he could try to use it against me one day or something.

Sand clung to my feet inside my socks like burrs. I hadn't done a marvelous job of wiping them off. Wasn't exactly an easy task when you were wet, since sand pretty much stuck to any wet surface. No big deal, though. I could wash them (my feet and my socks) at Tails's house. And dry myself off. I'd have brought a towel to the lake, but… I guess I hadn't actually expected myself to go in.

Huh. Wow. I actually went in!

xxx

"Sonic! I was hoping you'd swing by soon! I wanted to talk to you."

I rolled over, one of my quills snagging on the sofa in the process. Oops. "Ah, good morning to you too, bro."

"Heh, sorry, I didn't mean to wake you up so suddenly. I just didn't expect to see you in the living room. Usually you sleep on the roof, especially when the weather's nice."

Breezes are cold when you're soaking wet, I thought but didn't say. "Sofa sounded comfortable, I guess."

"Oh, that's fine, I don't care. Any more interesting dreams tonight?"

"What? Oh. Nah. Slept really good actually."

I pushed myself up to a sitting position and crossed my legs on the coffee table in front of me. Light bled in around the still-closed blinds. The clock on the wall read noon. I wasn't surprised; it was pretty normal for me to sleep in late, especially since I'd been at the lake until sunrise. But that was me.

"Heya Tails… are you just now getting up?"

"What? Oh. Yeah. I was really tired, I guess."

I blinked. "I guess you were! Only time I've ever seen you sleep until noon was when you were sick or something. Were you up late messing with those new plane parts you got?"

He shrugged one shoulder, looking really uncomfortable for some reason. "Not exactly," he mumbled awkwardly, but didn't elaborate. I cleared my throat to fill the silence, trying to think of what to say in response. I was kind of curious what he had been doing, but at the same time, I didn't want to squeeze it out of him if he didn't feel like discussing it. It was his business.

"So, what was it you wanted to talk about earlier?" I asked suddenly. His eyes brightened at my dismissal of the subject, and I could tell I had made the right choice for the time being. He'd tell me in time if he wanted to. Even best friends had to have a few secrets, right? I hadn't told him about my little endeavor at the lake, after all…

"Nothing specific, to be honest," he said. "I just kind of wanted to chill. We ran into each other in Central City yesterday when I was getting the parts, but that was really rushed because we both had stuff to do."

"Ahh, gotcha. Yeah, sorry I ran off so fast." I smiled. "Didn't realize you missed me."

"Hehe, well obviously you missed me too," Tails said. "Hey, since it's lunchtime already, feel like chili dogs?"

"Do I ever! Now we're on the same page!"

"Good to hear, because I already got them!"

"I thought you just got up…?"

"Yeah, but I got them last night while you were gone. Carry out. We just gotta warm 'em up and chow down. Sounds yummy today, don't you think?"

"You bet, bro. Good thinking."

He walked past the couch and headed into the kitchen to get them ready, but on his way, met my eyes and smiled. It could have been a normal, casual smile, but for some reason I got the impression it was a little more specific than that, though I couldn't pinpoint why. Was he just happy I was here? Was there something about me he found amusing today? Maybe I was just reading into it too much.

"So what you up to today, Sonic?"

I turned so that I was leaning on the arm of the couch, that way I could see into the kitchen. He put half a dozen chili-covered franks in the microwave and started it, then came back to sit at the other end of the couch while waiting for them to get done.

"Ahh, nothin' special." Yeah, sure, Sonic.

"Things are slow for you around here, aren't they?"

"Yeah, I guess they are. Eggman's been quiet, you're busy with the Tornado, Knuckles is guarding his pet rock. But I'm keeping myself busy, y' know?"

"I bet you are."

"Got to. I'd go crazy sitting around here all the time like you do."

"I don't sit around here all the time," Tails said defensively. "I do stuff too."

"I know, I know. I'm just messin' with ya."

The microwave beeped.

Tails rose hastily and got our food. We ate in the kind of silence that only two close friends could appreciate without feeling uncomfortable about it. Every now and then one of us muttered a random nothing, like how nice the weather looked outside or that these chili dogs were good stuff. It was peaceful. Relaxing. Something I definitely needed right now.

But… not for too long.

xxx

On my way back to the lake later that evening, I felt more confident than ever. Breezy, almost. I had the image of the lake in my mind already. It'd be easy; I'd already done it once. I knew what to expect now. Piece of cake.

Then I got there, and everything changed.

I came to a stop at the same area on the shore I'd been last night. It's funny how different things look when they're actually right there before you. My mental image of the lake had gotten rusty, even though it had been less than a day.

Now, suddenly, everything was vibrant in my mind again just as it was in my vision. Vibrant in a sharp, real kind of way. The lake was enormous, in size and in threat. The waves looked tall and violent even though they really weren't. I saw the white foam they created as they smacked the shore, making the moist sand cake together even more; I heard the roars and crashes of the water battling itself all crazy and wild… little details that you couldn't really retain in memory. Only in presence.

I reached up and rubbed my temples, closing my eyes for a moment. My stomach was tightening.

Only in presence.

It wasn't the sights or sounds themselves that got to me. It was the fact that I was going to step foot in that lake again. I could easily stand on the dry part of a shore and stare out at the water; that much didn't bother me at all, on its own. It was kinda pretty, even. I wished I could pretend I wasn't about to go running into trouble again, that way I could just be still and watch without feeling my heart pounding through my head. But I couldn't. I couldn't even strike a deal with myself. I have this weird thing about me… I trap myself into things even when I'm not trapped. Like when I'm fighting Eggman or someone else, and things go horribly wrong. I always keep on trying to make them right, even if it doesn't make any sense, even if it seems pointless, because most often it turns out it wasn't pointless. Even though I could easily run away, I don't. I… can't. It's just not how I work. It would feel so wrong.

So I trap myself. I trap myself into a situation mentally, and it has the same potency that an enemy trapping me physically does. I can't turn it down. I can't back away. I'm – for lack of better phrasing – a victim of my own nature.

Not my favorite word, victim. I don't like to think of myself that way. But sometimes it's hard not to.

Steeling myself, I opened my eyes again, facing the circumstances before me, even if only visually. That was the first step. Just like last night.

Only easy day was yesterday, right? Heh.

Last night, I had done just what I was doing now, but had taken another brief run before actually getting in the water, just to dissipate some nerves. Tonight I would not. Tonight I wanted to do at least one thing better than I had last night. A mountain couldn't be conquered in a day. But I wanted to get one step closer.

One step closer… to what, again?

I was never going to stop being afraid of water. That much I was almost certain of. It would always scare me. I would always feel weak inside at the notion of involving myself with it. So I wasn't sure what I was after. I guess I just wanted to face it, even if it would never go away. I wanted to put up a fight. Prove to myself that I could still beat it just like I beat everything else, no matter how I felt about it. I didn't need to be perfect, but I needed to be strong and combat it anyway.

Yeah. That was it.

My endeavor with the water had started because I feared possibility. The dream had forced me to confront the fact that water was something very real, present and potent. With as often as I got myself in trouble, it was bound to cause me problems at some point. In a way it already had. Fighting Chaos had been terrifying for me. I had kept it all to myself, of course. Tails, Knuckles and Amy never knew the extent of it. Well… Tails knew, but only because I let him in on it. I didn't show it in battle. I never showed it. Not because of courage or anything like that. Because of self-consciousness.

Even if I could never get rid of the uncomfortable anxiousness I felt around water… if I ever encountered any more Chaoses or unrealistically large dream rivers, I would be able to face it knowing I was capable of dealing with it. Not standing here all doubtful and… okay, scared, like I was right now.

It would make things so much more bearable.

But somehow I thought to myself that even if I never had to encounter water again – save for drinks and showers and the like – I would still want to do this. That dream had done more than make me aware of the possibilities this world held for me. It made me aware of myself. Of something I had seen as so small up until that point. It didn't seem small anymore. I realized nothing had ever terrified me this much in my life. And I wasn't okay with it. I could not be this aware of my own fear and not attempt to do something about it. I had to do something about it, for myself, even if only to say I tried.

Tried. Another word I wasn't incredibly fond of. I didn't want to just try. I wanted to win.

As my nerves tied themselves in double-knots, I removed my shoes, socks and gloves and put them all in a pile.

I laughed a little. You know, the nervous, 'hoooo boy' kind of laugh.

It was like starting all over again. As far as my stomach was concerned, last night had never even happened. I had never made any progress at all. Exposure hadn't helped anything. It had only reminded me why water scared me so much. The unpredictable recklessness of thrashing waves, the horror of submergence, the dreadful possibility of getting it in my nose or mouth and choking on it… Suffocation, drowning…

But I was already suffocating. I was suffocating in my mind just walking towards it. When I was almost there I sat down in the sand, trying to get a grip on myself. Fear was so debilitating. I didn't know how I was ever going to get any further if this was the way it was going to work. But then… thoughts like that had crossed my mind many a time before; the hopeless notion that there was no way to get further, and that my purpose was impossible.

I tried to remember those situations, and tried to remember those moments where the tables turned, where I had realized I really could do it.

Chaos. Watching the closest place I had to a home being destroyed by the flood. Fighting a being composed almost entirely of water. Or, you know, 'liquid Chaos energy.' It was all the same to me.

Being shot away from Space Colony ARK in a capsule set to explode, wondering if Tails would be able to defeat Eggman without me, hoping Amy would find the strength to move on… dreading what it would feel like being torn to shreds, if I would even feel it at all.

But in the end, I had neutralized Chaos. I had teleported to safety from the capsule. The moment always came where everything was doable again. Not necessarily easy, but doable.

That moment had come for me last night, too. I had sat back and watched the sunrise. Nice sunrise, too.

It was going to be okay. I had to keep that at the forefront of my mind. Even though it didn't feel like it, somewhere inside I knew this was the least dangerous of all those situations. And whether or not I went into the water, a few hours from now I would be sleeping comfortably on Tails's sofa again. Life would be continuing on. The world would still be turning. It would be okay either way.

So that meant I might as well do it.

I sat there for what felt like too short a time, but in retrospect, was probably quite a while. I played in the sand with my toes. Stalling, procrastinating. Thinking. One part of me was trying to talk myself into it while the other part was trying to justify my way out of it. Somewhere deep inside I already knew what I would do. I had already trapped myself.

Finally, I rose and finished the short journey to the water, feet squishing into the wet sand. I concentrated on that. It would stay right there below me. The ground wasn't suddenly going to drop out just because I went in the water. Not unless I purposely went that far.

I closed my eyes again. Oh man.

I could pinpoint the moment the fur of my heel hit the water. Again, it wasn't that inch-deep water itself that wrecked me. I could do that. It was the knowledge that it was only the first of many steps… the knowledge of what I was getting myself into. I willed myself not to feel the coldness surrounding my feet and kept going. It quickly swallowed my ankles, my shins, my knees. It penetrated through my fur, piercing the skin beneath like ice. Chills ascended up the backs of my legs and then coiled around my spine. I felt myself shudder with the feeling.

Chaos. I was freezing up. I didn't know what to do.

But it wasn't all or nothing. I could… I could stop. Wait. Let things sink in. I didn't have to freak out and turn back. I could just stop, and exist. Let myself catch up with… myself. Right. Sure.

Heh, can't even think coherently.

I made certain that my feet were steady beneath me, and stood there in equilibrium for a long moment. Then I opened my eyes and looked down, like last night.

Water. What else did I expect?

Just water. It was just water.

Tentatively, cautiously, I swished my fingertips around in it. It felt kinda nice, if I didn't think about it too much. Maybe this wasn't quite as bad as last night. I was in nearly up to my hips standing up. Yesterday I had crouched down to meet the water. Today I had gone further and walked out into it, letting it meet me. Perhaps I had worked it up too much in my mind. This… this wasn't so horrendous… Right?

"Right! C'mon, c'mon," I muttered under my breath. The kind of talking-to-yourself you only do when no one's around. "Go, go, go…"

Drawing a deep breath, I encouraged myself forward a little more. My tail went under and I twitched it a little, like a bug had landed on it or something. I tried not to think about how far out I was from the shore. It made me feel so vulnerable. I was completely surrounded by my foe.

But all I had to do was walk back. It was just like moving over dry ground, except I had to move slower because there was water. I trusted myself when I ran, didn't I? Heck, even that was probably more dangerous than this. With how fast I went, tripping up a little could mean a broken ankle or worse. Yet it never fazed me. I never worried about running despite the risk, because I knew what I was doing. I owned the ground! And that same ground was beneath me even now. I was still standing on it. I could… I could still own.

Yeah. I could still own!

Out of nowhere, a wave smacked me in the stomach. I didn't see it coming and went rigid when it made contact, curling in that weird way water curls when it hits an obstacle. The residue of it splashed in my eyes just before I squeezed them shut tight.

No. No. Turn around. Back to shore… turn around, turn around… run…

I was screaming inside. Another wave was going crash into me, get its salty water in my mouth, make me go under. I was convinced. It was over.

Seconds passed. The waves pushed against me with their regular gentle pressure and steady rhythm. I tilted my head skyward just in case another big one did come, and kept my eyes closed. With a great effort I managed to relax, letting the water pull on my open hands and rush between my fingers. With every passing moment I had to deny the deep, instinctive urge to turn around and get myself back on dry land. Slowly I built my resistance back up, trying to focus, trying not to focus.

I was shaking. Again. For Chaos's sake.

That had been the highest wave in minutes. I wasn't about to get killed, here. What was wrong with me? Why was I so scared? It was just water. It was just water!

With renewed stubbornness, I glared down at what I was submerged in and trudged forward with my eyes wide open, not bothering to wait until I was comfortable with it this time. I hated waiting. I was sick of waiting – on myself, no less! I walked faster, pushing heavily against the water, making it yield to my steps. I could see my legs beneath the surface, distorted and bent by the angle of the light. I had strong legs. They wouldn't let me down.

Heh. 'Let me down.' Good one, Sonic. Real clever.

I exhaled a hard, loud, heated breath. This was easier when I was mad. Way easier. Anger had a way of numbing fear. I didn't know what I was directing that anger at. Maybe myself, for not being able to handle this as well as I wanted to. Maybe the water, for existing at all. Maybe… maybe nothing. Maybe it wasn't anger at all; maybe it just was determination.

Hmm, that was a better way to think of it. It felt right. I didn't have to be upset about this. And I didn't have to trust the water, either. I just had to trust myself.

That was, of course, the moment I hit an invisible dip in the ground and tripped.

There goes my credibility.

Instinct alone remembered how to gasp air into my lungs before I went under. Water went in my nose indifferently even as I held my breath. Everything happened fast after that. I got myself up as fast as I could and dragged myself through the water back toward the shore, sputtering and coughing and grumbling the whole way. Epitome of dignity.

I breathed a sigh of relief as the water finally stopped weighing my steps down. The atmosphere around me lacked resistance by comparison, save for the sand my feet were sinking into just slightly. But that felt just fine to me. It felt secure, like it was welcoming me back. I was stable there. Rooted.

But I wasn't satisfied. I had… I had really thought I could do good tonight.

My thoughts and mood swung back and forth like a pendulum. I hadn't even considered staying. The second I thought I was in the slightest danger, I had backed out. And it had been nothing. I could have gotten above the water again and continued on like nothing had happened. I had been so ready, too! I would have kept going. I knew it. And… I was kind of proud of that.

But what was stopping me from going back in? I could go back in and pick up where I left off if I wanted to. It would only take a minute to get there.

I could take another try.

That was all it took to plant the seed. As soon as the notion crossed my mind I knew I was committed to it. I turned around again, turned away from the comforting scene of my socks, shoes and gloves sitting nonchalantly on the dry sand a few yards away, and back to the lake. Water poured off my spikes, which had all kind of massed together from being soaked. It dripped off my eyelids onto the skin by my mouth.

How perspectives could change. The lake looked so harmless now that I wasn't in it. Before, when I had first arrived, it was intimidating. But after being immersed in it, staring at it was nothing. I could have mocked it.

In the aftermath, everything seems easier than it was, because you're not in the midst of experiencing it. You're not feeling all the same vivid emotions and internal struggles. As I continued gazing out over the dark lake in the midst of that aftermath, I had the distinct feeling that I actually could do this again very easily… that it would be a non-issue, since I had just done it and the sense of success was so fresh.

So I whirred around and took a running jump into the water, like I had seen others do so many times for fun, seizing the instance of inspiration as well as my breath… Daring myself to face the exact situation I had just run from.

It took until the apex of the motion for me to have second thoughts, but by then it was of course too late. I splashed hard with my entire body, nearly face-planting the water, and made it slosh out with a loud rush.

At least I held my nose this time.

My jump had taken me a bit further than I thought. Guess I'd really put some umph into it. For a few dark, horrid seconds, I was completely under water, feet kicking for something to stand on. All I could see was liquid fog and foamy bubbles. There was no sunlight for me to gauge which way was up.

Finally my toes found the sand and I gained leverage, heavily pushing my head up out of the water. The air was cold against my soaked body. But it let me know real quick that I was above the surface. My heart was racing, and I had to catch my breath more due to fright than real tiredness.

Again with the grace and dignity. Sonic the hedgehog right here, folks.

The ripples from my splash died down, leaving the lake calm once more as I stood there in it.

"'S right," I said with a tried and true grin to the sloshing liquid. After a moment I shook my quills off and dragged myself back to shore once more. If I hadn't been shaking before, I was now. What had I just done? What was I thinking?

…Heh. Now that was familiar thought territory, for sure.

As I approached my attire, I mentally made another date with the lake. Not tomorrow again, though. Tails wanted to hang out, and if there was anything more important than doing something for yourself, it was doing something for your pals. I smiled at the thought. Maybe one day, sometime in the future, we could hang out at the beach or something.

Well. That was a bit ambitious.

When I finished putting my stuff back on, I stood up and made to head off to… wherever. But right before I picked up speed, I caught sight of a young couple further back on the shore. They were watching me curiously, hand in hand, but quickly turned upon being noticed and walked away. Wow. How long had they been watching? I was so absorbed (heh, absorbed) in it that I hadn't even noticed. Someone could have been watching last time too, for all I knew.

Still, it was kinda funny imagining what it all looked like from the outside. Guess they'd have gotten a good show.

Me, though… I was ready for an intermission. But not for too long. Only for now.

I moved forward at a steady northbound jog, the ground very much beneath my feet… in more ways than one.

xxx

:) So, the more I typed this, the more I thought to myself it's something I'd be fond of adding to now and then. I have a few other ideas, though not enough to sustain another chapter yet. But it's something that may continue, if ya want…? Anyway, thanks a lot for reading! Feel free to comment!