A Quick Note: Be sure to read "One Single Tear" before/after you read this one since this is directly related to it.
Tails smiled as he watched the blue blur soar back down the train track in the direction of Station Square. Within seconds a mere dusty trail was all that was left of his presence, and even that faded away shortly after. The train at the nearby station then whistled, its wheels screeched into a spinning motion and it followed Sonic's wake into the tunnel that would take it back to the city. All fell silent around Tails' workshop as the train let out one last whistle and huffed away into the tunnel.
Tails blew out a sigh. Even though he would have much preferred it if Sonic had stayed for a bit longer, he fully understood. He was always on the move, always finding others to help, and was always looking for that next great adventure. He never had a true reason for whatever he did, but Tails knew Sonic well enough to know that he never needed one in the first place. He helps others because that's just how he is, whether if it's his best friends or someone he had just met on the street.
If only he could one day join his side again on his adventures, like the old days…
Of course, he certainly enjoyed the adventures that he had taken on his own. Though no longer recent, the whole feud with Chaos was always fresh in his memory. He remembered how insecure and nervous he felt the first time he was separated from Sonic when the Tornado crashed chasing Dr. Robotnik's Egg Carrier. Even with a wing torn, he knew he had an important task at hand and it didn't take long to recover the chaos emerald from the tailed frog. But his true test came later that night when he was forced to take down Robotnik single-handedly to protect Station Square. Even though he had fought him alongside Sonic many times and had taken on an entire bird army alone, something about the mad doctor struck fear into his heart that night. But the people of the city depended on him now, and he wasn't going let them, Sonic, or himself down.
Tails sighed again and moved toward the Tornado, the stench of fuel clouding the area around it. He slid his hand across its body, checking to make sure there wasn't any additional damage that he and Sonic had missed earlier. He then approached its engine up front and his eyes immediately locked onto the blue chaos emerald that was attached within its frame. He stared at it in awe momentarily before slipping his fingers over its surface and popped it out of the engine with a bit of effort. He held the powerful gem in his hands, mesmerized by its glow. He looked up at the Tornado again.
"You did it little buddy!"
Tails felt his face redden underneath his fur.
After giving everything the all-clear, he then went back inside his workshop. He scanned the inside with his eyes, spotting metal parts and tools scattered across the floor and seeing how the shelves were untidy and unorganized with their contents. The sheets on his small bed were spread out everywhere and he noticed the multiple greasy stains spread across the floor of the garage now that there wasn't a plane occupying the space. He felt his heart sink a little. He would have to clean the place up later…
Not to mention that the strong smell of gasoline clung to his fur from fixing the Tornado's fuel tank…
Tails shook his head and walked toward his also untidy desk to his left, sliding himself into the chair. He brushed a few utensils aside, placed the chaos emerald and his radio in front of him and folded his arms on the desk before laying his head on his arms, staring at the emerald. He always seemed to have something to take care of or to fix these days. He often wondered whether he should just travel far away somewhere and take a long vacation like everyone else had done. He could understand why Knuckles never did, and even Sonic found some free time every once in a while. But for him, leaving things not taken care of would bother him until everything was finished, especially when it came to his planes.
Still, it would be nice to find the time to go back to his island again…
Tails scooted the chair back and was about to stand up, but something on his desk caught his eye. A small blue jewelry case lay at the right corner of his desk, seemingly beckoning him to peek inside. He reached his hand toward it slowly and pulled it in front of him, wiping the layer of dust that had accumulated upon it. He clicked it open, and then his eyes widened and a bright smile stretched across his face as he gazed over its contents.
He reached inside and pulled out two small golden rings, each identical with chains attached to a tiny hoop at the top. He held them both up to his face, seeing his smile in the thin reflection gleaming off the rings. He placed one ring on the desk and pulled apart the chain of the other. He wrapped the chain around his neck, clicking it together behind him and then let the golden ring hang over his furry chest, close to where his heart was. He then felt a warm sensation within and his face felt red again. He ran his finger and thumb over the surface of the ring and its gem, his mind drifting back to a memory from long ago, to when he first got the pair of rings. He had had done something then, something he knew he would have to do in the future, like a…promise of sorts…
Tails suddenly sat up straight, realization hitting him like a rock. That's right…he had made a promise that day, a promise to himself that he wouldn't forget what these rings would be for. He then felt embarrassed, knowing that it wasn't like himself to simply forget something.
To think that he had nearly forgotten about something so important to him…
Tails quickly shuffled through his desk, searching for a writing utensil and a scratch piece of paper. He pulled one of each out of one of the drawers, placing the small piece of paper in front of him and placing the tip of his pen on its surface.
And then he froze.
What was he going to write? A second ago he thought that he should put some kind of reminder of what the rings were for, but now that he thought about it, it felt like he needed to do something…more. He cupped his head in his opposite hand while tapping the pen with the other. His eyes fell upon the small radio, hoping that a certain voice would suddenly speak from it but he knew better. He thought deeply, but nothing came to mind and he started tapping the pen faster and faster the more he thought. Something like this usually didn't cause so much strain, and the longer he sat thinking the more frustrated he started to feel. He continuously started at the blank paper, feeling his emotions start to get the best of him.
He slapped the pen onto the desk, breathing an angry sigh. He leaned forward, letting his head lay on his hand. He closed his eyes, desperately thinking, searching for a solution to this problem, even though it wasn't one in reality. He wondered if this was how Sonic felt while he waited for him to give him a final word on the Tornado. His right hand slowly found its way toward the gold ring dangling from his neck. His fingers caressed its cool surface, tapping it lightly so that it slightly swung back and forth. His eyes suddenly snapped open.
Yeah, that could work, he thought.
With a smile, he pulled the paper toward him again and started to scribble several words onto the paper. He wrote each word quickly but neatly, hoping to finish before he lost his train of thought. It didn't have to be too complex, just something quick and to the point but also with meaning. After a minute or so he had nearly filled out the entire surface of the paper before sliding it away from him and reading what it said. After doing so several times he finally felt satisfied with its words, nodding to himself.
His ears suddenly perked up when he heard a splashing sound from outside the workshop. He frowned, both curiosity and anxiety setting in. He quickly placed the other ring back inside the jewelry case along with the piece of paper and tossed it inside one of the drawers, not taking care that the piece of paper stuck out of the case. He stood up from the chair and went to the door, cracking it open softly so that he could peek out to the right where the waterworks of his workshop were. He couldn't see anyone however and slowly opened the door the rest of the way, stepping outside and gazing around.
He shut the door quietly and searched to the right. He really hoped that some random tourist or kid wasn't teasing him, as he hated it when people messed with his things. He turned the corner, scanning the outside of the waterworks and finding nothing. He looked around the back of the workshop and back to the front where the Tornado sat silently. He hopped up to its cockpit and peeked inside, relieved to find no one there. He hopped back down and walked to the porch, searching and listening left and right for anything peculiar, but all he could see were a few tourists in the distance by the train station. He huffed, believing that paranoia had briefly taken a hold of him and everything was normal. He opened the door behind him without turning, gazing around one last time and stepped back into the workshop. He stared at a flock of birds toward the left for a moment, and then he turned to the right.
And then he screamed.
His hand slipped from the door handle, flailing his arms as he fell backward onto his rear. He let out a yelp and looked up at the dark figure standing over him that had suddenly appeared at his doorway. He shook his head and blinked a few times and his heart rate slowed back down upon realizing who the figure was, his fear turning into surprise.
"Sh – Shadow?" Tails breathed.
The black hedgehog stared down at him with his red eyes, his face without emotion.
"Tails…" He said simply, ignoring the fox boy's reaction.
Tails raised himself to his feet and dusted himself off. "Why – what are you doing here?"
Shadow turned to his left and gazed into the distance. Tails watched curiously as he appeared to scan the area with his eyes silently. Several moments passed without an answer and Tails began to wonder whether Shadow was going to just stand there or respond. Tails patiently waited and after a few long minutes he finally turned back to him, his eyes spotting something.
"What's that?" He asked, his eyes narrowing.
Tails' hand immediately shot up to the ring on his chest and his heart started pounding again.
"Oh, what…this?" Tails said nervously. "It's – it's nothing! Just…something I bought a long time ago because I liked it!"
Shadow continued to stare at his clenched hand. Tails really hoped that a joke or insult wasn't about to be thrown his way as he really didn't feel like dealing with such things today.
"…It looks really nice." Shadow said softly.
Tails' eyes widened and his heart lifted. "Really? You think so?"
"Yeah." Shadow nodded. "It kind of looks like something Sonic would wear, though."
Tails felt his face flush red again.
"So…what brings you here?" Tails asked, wanting to change the subject.
Shadow breathed out. "I've been looking for something for a long time, and the energy I'm sensing tells me I've found it."
Tails stepped back. Always straight to the point, Shadow was. Tails' eyes flicked to his desk uncontrollably to where the chaos emerald was laying. He had a nasty feeling that that was what he meant and felt somewhat nervous of that notion from the way the hedgehog stared, though he didn't know why. He could feel his spirits depleting almost as if his intimidating presence had such an effect. He knew Shadow well, but somehow something was…different about him today.
"I take it you have a chaos emerald with you?" Shadow continued.
Well, that confirms it.
"Um…yeah." Tails said, nodding. "I have one with me."
"How did you get it?"
"Sonic brought it to me."
Shadow's eyes widened. "Sonic's here?"
"No, he left a while ago." Tails replied, gaining confidence back in his voice. "I've been working on one of our old planes for the past week. I wanted to see if I could fly the Tornado using an emerald's power and Sonic was helping me."
Shadow lowered his head and his eyes drifted to the side as if thinking carefully. After several seconds he looked back at the fox.
"Can I see it?"
Tails eyes widened, unsure of where exactly he wanted to go with his request, but he obliged nonetheless. He went over to the desk, grabbed the blue gem and brought it to Shadow, raising it up to him. Shadow took it and held it in front of him, staring into the gem. For a long time he stood still as a statue and the longer he did, the more narrower and fierce his eyes grew. Tails watched him all the while and the look on his face made him rather uncomfortable. He knew he couldn't lie to Shadow about the emerald and knew that he was a powerful and trustworthy ally. After all, he had helped saved the world thrice from various threats and Tails always treated him with respect. He wondered if it was an old memory that was giving him that look, but he could never be sure with him.
"Can I ask you something?" He suddenly asked, lowering the emerald and startling Tails.
"You haven't seen anything…unusual around here, have you?"
Tails glanced back and forth. "No…not really. Nothing out of the ordinary has happened here for a long time. Why?"
Shadow hesitated, but then he shook his head. "No reason. It's just that wherever there is a chaos emerald, Sonic and trouble are never far off."
Tails couldn't have agreed more. Whenever the world seemed to be in danger, Sonic, Robotnik and the chaos emeralds have nearly always been at the source. Robotnik always created turmoil, Sonic was always there to foil his plans and the emeralds were the ultimate goal for both. It was like an endless circle of a trend that had become part of the world itself and there seemed to be no end in sight.
"This…may seem sudden…" Shadow said, gaining Tails' full attention. "…but if you don't mind, I would like to hold onto the chaos emerald for a while."
Tails blinked, his ears perking up to his words. "How come?"
Shadow looked away from the fox and didn't answer.
"Do you need it?"
Shadow didn't reply. Instead his gaze rose upward and into the distance as if something else had gained his attention. Tails looked in the direction he faced to see what it was, but the only things he could see were the bluffs near his workshop and the waterfall across from the train station. He glanced at Shadow, whose face now had a grave look upon it, and couldn't help but feel confused. Did he see or sense something?
Tails tilted his head, leaning forward and tried again. "Did you need the emerald for something?"
Shadow finally turned his head back to him, but the look on his face changed into a more serious one.
"Look, I just need the emerald, alright?" Shadow snapped, urgency and anger apparent in his voice. He raised the hand with the emerald, his fingers gripping the gem tightly. "I don't have time to explain every little detail to you, but it would be in the best interests of us both if you let me have this emerald for now."
Tails stepped back, both alarmed by this sudden change in tone. For a second he thought that Shadow was going to use chaos control or something and vanish, but the black hedgehog remained where he was, waiting for his reply. Tails could feel his red eyes glaring through him and it sent a rather cold chill down his spine; the same feeling he got when Shadow demanded that Tails step aside so he could destroy Emerl. But he stood up to the ultimate life form then because Emerl had become a good friend and Sonic had asked that he look after him. That choice had left bruises and injuries that he could still feel today and he really hoped that the wrong choice now wouldn't yield the same results.
But suddenly a terrible thought had struck his mind. Tails still needed the chaos emerald. Although the test he and Sonic did with the Tornado was overall a success, he still needed to run more, longer and thorough tests to ensure that he had finally created an engine powered by a chaos emerald, like Robotnik had done many times before. But his heart began to sink further when he thought about the other reason, the real reason he needed to hang on to the emerald.
Tails' gaze fell to the ground. He thought of his words carefully, but he didn't want to explain everything, just like Shadow. He also didn't want to bring out the wrong reaction from the hedgehog, but he still needed to give him an answer. Tails raised his head back up and looked Shadow in the eyes.
"I'm sorry Shadow, but I can't let you have the emerald."
Shadow blinked. He stared at him for several long moments before cracking his mouth open.
Tails rubbed the fur on the back of his head. "Well…I still need to do a few more tests on the Tornado with the emerald, and there are a few more things I want to try to use the emerald for…so, um…"
Tails trailed off. He felt the glare from Shadow become stronger and the air around them felt rather still. Shadow closed his eyes and shook his head.
"You do know of the risk your putting yourself in, don't you?"
Tails frowned. Surely that wasn't a serious question?
"Of course I do. I've been handling the chaos emeralds for quite a while now…"
Shadow shook his head again and turned to the side.
"You don't understand…"
"What do you mean?"
Shadow sighed angrily as he turned back to him, his red eyes flaring up.
"Look, Tails…" He began, holding his head with his empty hand. "I need this emerald as well…possibly more than you do. I wish I had the time to explain, but I haven't been given that luxury as of late."
"But this is something really important to me." Tails pleaded. "I know I sound like I'm being selfish, but I don't get this chance very often, especially since Eggman keeps coming around with one stupid plan after another. If Sonic has taught me anything, it's that you gotta take the chance while it's there before you lose it forever!"
He paused, returning Shadow's stares. He saw the fierceness start to fade in his eyes, reassuring him that his case was finally getting through to him.
"I'm sorry, Shadow…" Tails said again, shaking his head. "But I need the emerald. I hope you understand…"
The hedgehog's gaze started to soften slightly as he continuously stared. The fox retained eye contact with him, frowning and hoping that what he was thinking fell more in his favor. Shadow then raised the chaos emerald up and took a long look as if considering it with narrow eyes. He then held it up to Tails, who looked back at him uncertainly. He slowly raised his own hand and took the gem, noticing that Shadow's gaze remained upon it. After several more moments Shadow turned on his heel and headed for the stone stairs in front of the workshop. Tails held the emerald tightly in his hand, a feeling of immense relief washing over him as he blew out a sigh.
"Shadow!" He suddenly called, trying one more time. "Why did you need the emerald?"
Shadow stopped half way down the stairs. "…I just thought that it would be safer… but you've proven before that you're capable of protecting the emerald and yourself, so…I suppose I have no more business here."
"Safer? Safe from what?"
Shadow clenched his fists and his head lowered. He stood still for a moment, and then he turned back toward Tails.
"Just…watch yourself, okay? And whatever you do, don't let that emerald out of your sight."
And with that, he sped off in a dark blur, vanishing from Tails' eyesight. Tails stepped out of the doorway and stared after him, not surprised that he couldn't find him. He took a deep breath, feeling his mind clearing and his body relax. He shut the door behind him before hopping up onto the roof of the workshop. He moved over to the edge close to the Tornado and sat down, dangling his legs over the side.
The sun had begun to set, smearing bright and dark colors across the sky and the few stray clouds scattered about. The ocean below sparkled like crystal and the wind hummed through the trees lining the makeshift runway next to the workshop. Tails placed the chaos emerald on his lap and he leaned back on his arms, enjoying the scenery. Sights like these often reminded him of the few times in which he and Sonic actually took a break from their quests so they could slow down and admire the lands they have explored. Moments like that often led to random conversation about anything; their current adventure, Robotnik, their friends, jokes about Knuckles, the list went on and on. He turned his head to the empty space next to him and couldn't help but imagine the blue hedgehog sitting next him, chatting about where to take the Tornado next and how he wanted to take him along for the ride. He ran his fingertips over the ring on his chest. He felt his heart rise and fall at the thought…something he felt quite often up until recently.
Tails picked up the emerald and started to lightly toss it up and down. He threw it higher and higher and each time he caught it, his eyes never unlocking from its deep blue surface. He then held it up to his face, gazing at his small, smiling reflection. His smile suddenly vanished and he jerked forward. A cold shiver shot down his neck as if a pair of steely eyes had found and attempted to pierce him. He quickly stood on his feet, holding the chaos emerald close to him. He looked left and right, spotting no movement or anyone in either direction. He turned around and moved to the other side of the roof, searching the area down the hill but still found nothing. His eyes then began to trace the bluffs in front of him and traveled up and up and up until…
His eyes widened and the chaos emerald nearly slipped from his grasp. At the very top of the bluff stood a dark silhouette of a figure, seemingly staring down straight at him. Tails blinked a few times, trying to make sure it wasn't something else. But the moment he stared back up at the top, the silhouette had vanished. Tails' frowned, but he couldn't help but feel curious as to what that was. He whirled his tails in a spinning circular motion, slowly lifting himself into the air. He flew toward the bluff and rose up the side until he reached the top, landing smoothly on the flat rocky surface. He searched the area, but it was as empty and lifeless as can be.
"Hmm…maybe it was just an animal…" Tails muttered. "Yeah…what else could it have been?"
But even with that statement, his mind was still not at ease. He lifted the emerald still in his hand, still in his possession even after Shadow's persistent attempt to obtain it. A deep frown formed on his face.
"Sometimes…you're more trouble than you're worth…" He said to the emerald.
Tails drew in a deep breath, once again taking in the cool evening air along with the gasoline still on his fur. His eyes shut tightly, holding and shaking his head. He really needed to take a bath…and clean the Tornado…and he needed to do this…and he needed to do that…
"Man, I gotta go fly or something…"
He moved back to the edge of the bluff, gazing down at the land. He took one last glance behind him before spinning his tails and taking to the air again. He lowered himself back to ground level, landing in front of the workshop. He glanced at the Tornado, disappointed that he wouldn't be flying it this time, and then went inside, flipping the light switch on to rid the room of the evening darkness. He went over to his desk and picked up the radio, just in case. He then went to the right and stepped onto the small lift with railings, pressing the glowing green switch on the small panel on the side. The lift noisily came to life and descended down into the basement of the workshop, where he kept all spare tools, parts, and his spare plane. He flicked another light switch on and moved toward the small, rusty gray plane that lay in waiting.
Tails placed a hand on its cold surface, a habit that he had with all of his inventions. He did his usual full examination of the plane to ensure that it would run smoothly and finished, satisfied that it was still in good condition since he rebuilt it after crashing it into Emerald Beach a long time ago. He then went to another panel on the wall and pulled down the lever. The large metal door to the right started to lift up slowly, revealing a long dark tunnel on the other side. On the other end of the tunnel a second door opened as well, letting in the evening light onto the runway. Tails then quickly hopped into the cockpit of the plane, pressing multiple switches and buttons until the plane sputtered to life. He let the plane run for several minutes while the doors opened completely, checking everything one more time. He placed the chaos emerald and radio down at his feet and took a last look around the garage. He then pushed the acceleration lever forward and the plane scooted by the door, gradually increasing in speed. Eventually the plane moved fast enough to shoot out of the end of the tunnel and into the cool evening air.
Tails gazed over the side at the ocean below and a bright smile spread over his face. He pulled the plane upward toward the darkening sunset and turned right back toward the Mystic Ruins. He looked down at the train station and felt the stares from the people there. Just as he had hoped, he could feel his mind start to relax from all the strain he placed upon himself earlier now that he was in the air again. To him, flying his planes was equivalent to Sonic's running, and often times he couldn't wait to take off again. It was probably one of the many reasons he understood the hedgehog more than anyone else did.
He soared over the rocky landscape of the Mystic Ruins, not surprised that he still knew his way around. He could see large bodies of sand in the distance, an area he used when he was more in the mood for boarding rather than building or flying. He could see the thick tree tops ahead and below him as well as the actual ruins standing high above in its center.
Tails sat up to gain a better view, but as he did there was suddenly a bright flash of light. Tails quickly glanced to his right, only to watch the right wing explode in a fiery blast with a deafening bang! He covered his face with his arms as bits and pieces of metal flung in every direction. The plane immediately dipped to the side and began to plummet toward the green land below. With his mind racing and heart pounding Tails seized the levers and steering wheel and yanked them back, trying to regain control. The plane wobbled left and right, leaving a smoky trial behind as chunks of metal flew away from the body. Tails bared his teeth, pulling back as far as he could, hoping that the plane would rise. Within seconds the thick trees of the jungle came into view directly ahead.
Tails felt his heart freeze; he was going to crash. The jungle was right on top of him. He shut his eyes tightly, bracing for impact. In the next split second, trees whirled past him and he scraped along others as leaves and branches slapped him hard in the face. The left wing caught a rock wall, tearing it completely off and sending the plane spinning through the air. Tails held on for dear life, wishing for everything to stop, hoping that everything would be okay…
Pain…sharp and unforgiving…
A moan escaped from his lips.
There was a voice…someone was shouting…
His arm twitched as the signs of life spread across his body.
Something was hissing…crackling…
Tails slowly opened his eyes and was greeted by blurry vision. He blinked a few times, lifted his left hand and held his pulsing head, feeling warm blood running down his face and soaking his muzzle. His orientation started to recover and he realized that he was leaning to the left, along with what was left of his plane. He glanced to the right, his eyes greeting a tall stone pillar with dangerously large cracks running up its surface. He then turned his head forward, seeing that a large chunk of rock had fallen right on top of the dashboard, crushing all its instruments...along with his legs underneath. Tails face twisted. But something flickered and his eyes widened as they spotted a small flame ignite from the mangled engine.
If that flame grew any larger…
Tails reached toward his legs with bruised arms and gripped them weakly. He needed to get away from here, one way or another. He gave a quick pull, but he instantly felt incredible pain surge up his legs and strike his brain. He let out a cry and ceased his efforts. His arms sunk to the sides and his head hung down. He couldn't believe this. He was stuck here…and by the looks of things, he was…
Tails blinked, spotting the blue glow of the chaos emerald between his legs, and sitting next to the emerald was the radio. A spark of life began to alight within him. He reached down slowly, doing his best to keep the pain from rising and just barely managed to stretch far enough to reach the radio and pulled it up. He leaned back, letting the radio slip onto his lap as the feeling of exhaustion overtook him again and the spinning and pain returned swiftly. He took several uneven breaths, trying to focus on what he needed to do. He lifted the radio up to his face and saw that it too was damaged. He pressed the switch on its side, a red light flickered on and he twisted the knob, but all that came from the radio was loud static.
Oh, please work…he thought desperately. Please still have your radio…
He cracked his mouth open, but all that sounded was a long, agonizing moan. He took more heaving breaths, holding the radio toward his chest. He tried again, adjusting the knob to try to fix the static but it continued to screech from the radio. He opened his mouth, but then he lurched forward, trying to hold another cry of pain. His breathing became shorter and he thought he was going to be sick. The static of the radio suddenly died down slightly, and for a moment he thought he heard something within it. He stared at the radio, trying to listen carefully. The static lessened a little more, and there was…a voice.
Tails' eyes lit up like a star.
He leaned back, letting a weak smile spread over his face. He held the radio up toward him, releasing a small cry of joy, trying to hold back the burning in his eyes and the choking feeling in his throat. It was really him…
He took a deep breath, trying to steady his breathing and heart.
"Tails?" Sonic's voice called back. "What is it? What's going on?"
Static emitted from the radio again. Tails took a breath, trying to sound clear and confident, but the pain continued to push into his mind. There was a distant blast from the jungle, followed by a brief flash of light. Tails glanced toward its direction, but then returned his attention to the radio. He was running out of time. He waited until the static died down before trying again.
There was a moment of silence, followed by, "Zzzzz…talk to me! What's going on?"
Tails crumpled over, holding his body and nearly dropping the radio. His vision darkened and his hearing faded in and out. He held his head again, trying to clear it but the static made it rather difficult. He moaned loudly and his eyes burned again. He had to tell him. He needed to know everything…
"…I'm sorry…I messed up…"
"What are you talking about?"
Another boom sounded, closer than before. It shook the air around him and he nearly dropped the radio again. Tails turned his head to the left to see a tree snap and collapse to the ground. Someone was shouting angrily, but he couldn't quite tell who it was. He suddenly felt intense heat come from the front of the plane as the small flame from the engine had gradually grown. Tails stared wide-eyed. He was scared, more than he was when Robotnik kidnapped him, more than when he was shot down from the sky while chasing the Death Egg, more than he was when he took on Robotnik alone, even more than he was when Sonic and Shadow were beginning to light on fire as they entered the atmosphere fighting the Final Hazard. It struck him cold and breathless and he felt his heart hammer in his chest. He lifted the radio up to his face. He was his last chance…
"…Sonic…please…" He pleaded.
Something popped inside the engine, and within seconds the front of the plane erupted in a blaze. Tails gasped as the flames licked his body, flinging the radio away and flailing his arms to try to keep the flames away. He then screamed as the fire continued to spread across the plane. He was panicking, screaming, begging for someone or something to save him from this horrible fate.
In the midst of his cries, a pair of arms seized him from underneath his arms and pulled him up swiftly and out of the cockpit. He felt himself being dragged across the ground as the arms continued to pull him away from the fiery wreckage. The arms then laid his body carefully to the ground and he let out another whimper. A felt a hand patting him repeatedly and he could feel incredible burns all across his body. He just wanted it all to end…just make it all end… No amount of pain was worth it…
He didn't know how long he lay there. He felt a hand slide under his head and lift him up. His eyes were shut tight, but he could feel someone's presence next to him, staring at him. He slowly opened his eyes, his vision swirling in and out. He blinked, seeing a blue figure leaning over him. His heart skipped a beat and he blinked again, but the figure turned black, with red stripes across his body…
"Sh…Shadow…?" Tails muttered. "Wha…?"
The hedgehog looked back at him, his face blank and without emotion. Tails tried to lift himself up, but Shadow pressed him back down, shaking his head. Tails stared at him, confused and hurting, but decided not to fight against him.
"Where's…Sonic?" He asked weakly.
Shadow didn't answer. He scanned Tails' body with his eyes, frowning at his poor condition. Tails noticed the look on his face and felt his heart sink further. The tears welled up in his eyes again, blurring his darkening vision. Words stabbed at his mind, a question he never wanted to ask and felt terrible to even think about, but they needed to be said now. There was no reason to hold back.
"Am…I going to…?" Tails choked.
Shadow lowered his head and closed his eyes, the sadness all too apparent in his face. It was all he needed, and he felt himself break on the inside. He turned his head to the side, not wanting to look at the black hedgehog or anyone for that matter. He wanted to hold back the tears, wanted to show that he was still strong even now, but every second that ticked by in silence was more painful than any of his injuries. He let the tears fall, soaking his fur and running down his cheeks and into the grass. Why did Shadow have to find him here, instead of…
He lifted a hand and slowly grasped the jeweled ring on his chest. So this was it. He was going to die here…alone. Sure, Shadow was here, but there was someone else he would rather be held by. His friends…he was never going to see them again…and he didn't even get to say goodbye… Oh, where in the world was Sonic?
He gazed back at Shadow, who stared back gravely but almost as if he was waiting for something. Tails rolled his head to the right and his eyes fell upon the burning wreckage of his plane. He had to tell someone…and Shadow was the only one here.
"Shadow…the chaos emerald…" He breathed.
Shadow's eyes widened and he leaned in closer to hear every word.
"It's still in there…the plane…"
Shadow glanced at the wreckage. He slowly lowered Tails' head back down and was about to sit up and take off.
"Wait…" Tails pleaded. It was growing dark…too dark…
Shadow stopped himself and looked back at the fox. He listened, but he almost looked like he was getting impatient.
"Can you…can you tell them…tell Sonic…"
He took a deep, trembling breath, feeling it all slipping away…
Tails' hand slipped off of his ring, and then fell limply to the ground.
Shadow stood up slowly, staring at the lifeless fox before him. He stared and stared and stared as if waiting to see whether he would suddenly awake from a deep sleep, but he never did. His eyes fell onto his face, lit up by the flickering fire behind him and soaked to the skin with tears. It was disturbed and in pain, but seemingly not from the wounds across his body. The jeweled ring lay on his chest and seemed a bit duller than it was moments ago as if it had sensed his passing.
Shadow took a few slow steps backward, taking one last glance at the fox, and then he turned around and walked toward the wrecked plane. He kept his distance from the intense heat and scanned it with his eyes, spotting the cockpit amidst the fire. The fox didn't say exactly where in the plane it was, but the cockpit seemed like the most likely place. It was certainly in there somewhere, as he could sense its power. He would have to be quick if he was to get the emerald inside without injuring himself.
Of course, being quick was one of his specialties…
He took a step back, dashed forward and leapt into the air, diving straight into the flames. He landed on the side the cockpit and quickly searched inside, spotting the chaos emerald in a second as the flames licked his body. He ignored the burning sensation and threw his hand down, grabbing the emerald and yanking it out. He then quickly jumped up and onto the tall stone pillar the plane was pressed against, patting his body to put out any flames that may have clung to him. He checked himself, glad to see that he felt little pain and was fast enough to prevent any real damage. Shadow breathed a sigh of relief and then raised the chaos emerald up to his face, gazing into its soft glow. He could feel its enormous power within and he felt the urge to unleash it grow steadily. He would have to resist, for now was hardly the time. But as he stared into the gem, his red eyes flared up and he felt a twisted smile stretch across his face.
"One down…six more to go…" Shadow hissed softly.
His ears suddenly perked up and he whipped around in the opposite direction. He felt the presence of someone approaching this area, and fast. He waited, wondering who it was, and in the next minute he spotted what looked like a blue hedgehog emerging from the underbrush of the jungle. The hedgehog stood still for a moment, and he felt his gaze fall upon him. Shadow's eyes narrowed. Now was the time to leave…
"Tails!" The hedgehog yelled, dashing toward him with an outstretched hand.
Shadow leapt high into the air, and then vanished into the night as the plane below exploded into fiery pieces, shattering the tranquility of the world around it.