The magic battle raged, but it was turning one sided. Liam's command of the Forbidden Magics had clearly given him an edge, but at what cost?
Tails watched. It was all he could do. Nova had forced his way in, and he couldn't push him out.
He examined the small shard of magic Liam had left him.
If you're hearing this, it means you've found my magic. Be careful with this, Tails. It's very important. Liam's voice rang in his mind clearly. Listen carefully, and well. Through this small piece, you can tap my own magic yourself. I want you to use it on your other half. He doesn't believe I'd help him because of what he is, but he's not right. Use it on him. It'll change him so instead of being dependant on Shadow's other half, if he still exists, by this point, or Nova if he doesn't, to whoever you choose. It can't be me. Choose wisely.
What you do with it then is up to you. Remember what I should have told you by now – you're already safe. You just don't realise it yet.
Tails was touched. He'd thought of everyone and everything.
But who to tie his other half to? Himself? But what if something happened to him? If he tied it to someone else, at least he'd live on through him.
Liam? No, Liam's message had said not to.
Maybe... yes, that seemed like a good choice. Hopefully Sonic wouldn't mind.
He winced slightly, feeling a particularly unpleasant bit of magic from Liam. He knew Liam wouldn't kill him, but he'd feeling the effects of this for a while. He had to believe that he'd get through this.
* * *
The magic continued afflicting everything around it. Knuckles and Silver were having a hard time protecting everyone.
Knuckles was starting to give under the weight of it.
We should get everyone clear, Silver. I can't hold up longer.
Let me help. We should stay as long as possible.
He felt bolstered by Silver's help, and pushed back anew, holding out what magic he could with Silver.
* * *
Amy clung to Sonic. She'd been startled by the way it had changed him temporarily, but it was just that, temporary, and he'd returned.
She was afraid of what would happen, not just to Tails, but to Liam too.
She was also worried about the other Tails, who was still on the ground, breathing only weakly. Aqua was still hovering over him, also worried.
She wish there was some way she could help all of them.
She thought she heard Tails' voice whisper her name faintly, but put it down to the other fox beside her.
* * *
Shadow didn't watch. He couldn't. The Chaos Emeralds he'd worked hard to protect were now powering Nova, and forcing Liam to use ancient, dark, and forbidden magic. It should never have been put into the hands of mortal people. It was never meant to be in their hands.
It was never meant to be in his hands, either. Only through the two times he'd borrowed Liam's body had he come into contact with it, and only on the second time had he used them.
"Don't you dare lose to him, Liam," he murmured. "Or I'll feel even worse about using them myself."
* * *
Sonic watched the form of Tails. He knew it wasn't Tails there right now, but he still thought that way.
"Hang in there, Tails. You'll pull through."
"Hm?" It was Amy.
"Just thinking out loud."
"He'll be alright."
"I hope so."
"I know so."
He held her close, comforting her best he could.
* * *
The magic became almost totally dark, and there was a detonation. Silver was pushed to the ground, even their mental barrier only barely withstood it. The entire mountain shook.
Liam stood on the ground, magic still flowing from him. It warped the air around him, but he took no notice.
Nova stepped unsteadily back, and fell.
It was Nova who fell, but Tails who got back up.
Sonic called to him. He gave a weak smile, and joined him. Liam didn't move.
Nova flickered into being where Tails had been. He tried to say something, but was obliterated from a single bolt from Liam's hand.
"I told you," he growled. "I told you, I'd stop you. I've ended it. Here. Now. No more."
The others got up. The colour of Tails' other half changed. His eyes became normal, and his fur took on two new shades. Instead of Tails' yellow, he now bore a blue not unlike Sonic's. The black changed to yellow instead.
He looked himself over, half admiring his new look, and half wondering why he hadn't disappeared yet.
No one said anything. They were waiting and watching Liam.
He turned to face them. They wished they hadn't seen him.
The Oracle hadn't been wrong when she told him he'd face a danger unlike any other. He faced himself, and became it.
* * *
Amy was more afraid of Liam than she had been of Nova. "What's happened to him?"
"He's let it control him," Shadow murmured. "He went too far."
"What can we do?"
"Leave. I'll take care of it."
"We're won't just leave you behind, Shadow."
Tails got up and moved to his newly recoloured and restored lookalike. They whispered for a few moments, and Tails slipped something to him. He nodded.
"Leave it to me," he told them. "I know exactly what to do. Just keep clear."
He left the barrier's protective area. Ignoring Liam, he went directly to the Master Emerald, and lay a hand on it. He removed the taint that Shadow's other half had left, restoring it, then let it return to it's accustomed place.
He moved to each Chaos Emerald, touching each in turn and removing the taint from them too, and letting them return as they wanted. One to Shadow. One to Sonic. One to Tails. Another to Aqua. The fourth to Knuckles. The fifth to Silver. Number six went to Amy. He took the last himself, and confronted Liam.
"Stop," was all he said to the boy.
He was thrown into the back rock wall of the plateau in response, but got up again, and walked back.
"Stop," he repeated.
The second blast was blocked by his using the Chaos Emerald. Liam refocused on each of the others in turn, but the Chaos Emeralds blocked it for each of them.
The focus returned back to him, and with it the full amount of Liam's power oriented on him. He couldn't stand against that long.
* * *
Sonic watched the second dual taking place. The other Tails made no move, he just blocked it. He was being steadily pushed back along the rock, causing a small trench to be dug in the ground beneath him.
Liam seemed to become more and more infuriated.
He wasn't going to let up. Neither of them would.
Well, he knew what would get Liam's attention. He just hoped it would work.
"Amy, let go of me."
"Do it." She reluctantly let go.
"Knuckles? Silver? Drop the shield. The Chaos Emeralds are handling it. Save your energy."
They nodded in unison, and he felt it drop.
Finally he went to Tails, and gave him the Chaos Emerald that had come to him.
"Keep it safe for me, little buddy."
"But you'll be left..."
"I know. Keep it safe. I'll take it back in a few."
"Sonic, you're planning suicide," Shadow told him.
"Maybe. Or maybe I gotta new plan."
"Don't do anything dangerous, Sonic."
"Are you kidding? That's what I do best!"
He made a dash around behind the other Tails. He could feel the power they were putting out.
It was a risky plan, but he knew it would work.
He almost tried to prepare himself, but realised no amount of preparation would make a difference.
Instead, he put on his favourite grin, jumped, and dashed directly into the flow of magic and chaos between the two.
* * *
There was a second detonation, throwing them all to the ground again, and silencing Amy's call to him.
Liam was thrown more than to the ground, he was thrown from his power. It faded and seemed to vanish before him. For the first time in seven centuries, he had no magic. He was a normal, if unusually old, boy.
He got up, looking around, slightly fearfully.
He saw Sonic laying motionless.
"No... what have I done..."
He didn't even try to stay standing up. He couldn't face them after that.
* * *
Sonic realised he was watching the scene from above, seeing himself.
"This is a most curious event," a quiet voice behind him said. He turned, but there was nothing there. "It appears to have saved them, but at what cost? You were willing to make the sacrifice of yourself to save them all? The one you love?"
It was behind him again. He looked around again, this time spotting the woman he recognised as the Oracle that Liam had spoken to, seated once again on her golden throne.
"Sonic, the hedgehog. I have so looked forward to meeting you. But this is not the appointed time. You are not meant to be here."
She looked down at the scene below. No one was moving. No one seemed to be able to believe it.
"We are left with a problem. Liam is stripped of his magic. He has killed without reason, and his intentions have been made clear. He attempted to kill you before, but it was blocked. Then you willingly gave yourself. However that does not justify his malice. He no longer has his magic."
"He wasn't in control of himself!" he objected.
"Perhaps, but you cannot refute me. I am the Oracle. I know what has happened. I have known for longer than anyone has existed." She watched some more. "I cannot return you to the world of the living. That is not within my power. Nevertheless, you should not be here. I am left with one option."
"This is the loophole. As compensation for your unexpected loss of life, you are permitted to a single wish."
"But I can't wish myself back to life, can I?"
"No. That is outside my reach."
Sonic thought. Then he had an idea.
"I want Liam to have his magic back."
"It was taken with reason."
"It was used uncontrolled, in fury. He couldn't stop himself. Unless you're denying me what you just told me I was permitted to."
The Oracle watched him in silence. Then she laughed.
"Very well. You have proved to be an interesting individual. I will not deny your wish. Do you want to remain and watch for longer?"
"Sure. I wanna see what happens next."
She made a gesture toward Liam, and he seemed to glow for a moment.
* * *
They stood in awe of what had happened. Nobody moved.
Amy broke the still silence, running to Sonic's body, willing him to be alive. When she realised, she rounded on Liam.
"I can't," he whispered. "I've been stripped of magic as punishment."
"Who could do that?"
"The Oracle. The very first user of all magic. The one who brought it into our world."
"There has to be something!"
"There is nothing."
"You, you... you..." she couldn't bring herself to say anything more.
"I'm sorry," he told her. "I'm sorry. There's nothing I can do."
The Chaos Emerald in Tails' hand glowed. Each of the others followed suit. They each formed a beam of light, focusing over Liam.
The Oracle formed.
He made no response.
He looked up, and shook his head. "I accept your judgement."
"You do not have to. His last wish was to have it restored. I entrust you with it once again."
"I cannot. I have proved myself to be tempted by those powers."
"So has Shadow. But he controlled himself. He dealt with it himself. You, however, did not. But it his wish, I will not deny him. It is restored."
She faded again, leaving them all speechless again.
"Now you can do something about this!" Amy half screamed at him. He stared for a few moments, then nodded.
"It just so happens," he managed to say, "That I've always had a plan for the event someone lost their life because of me."
He approached, and focused, drawing his magic carefully so as not to cause any more trouble.
* * *
The Oracle and Sonic watched.
A small pool of incredibly white light appeared, slowly growing. Liam pushed it into Sonic's body. He felt a pull on him.
"You are to be commended, Sonic. Your plan has succeeded."
"You are shortly to be restored to life. Liam is freely giving up some of the life force that sustains him – some of his very own, not the additional life force he gained through how own misaction – to you. Your sacrifice to save them will not be forgotten, but do not forget the one he has made for you. May we meet again."
* * *
Sonic sat up, coughing and gasping for air. He doubled that after Amy collided with him, almost squeezing him too tight to breath.
"Amy!" he breathed.
"Sorry. I guess I was a bit excited."
Liam watched, content. He was finished here now. He doubted they'd trust him after what he'd almost done, so he turned to the rock face, and put a hand on it. At his touch, the red rock tunnel of the cavern opened, and he stepped in. No one noticed as he closed it again, moving it to a more private part of the world.
He looked out over a familiar view of the sheer cliff on the other side of the mountain they were on. It was where the tunnel had been before Tails had first persuaded him to leave.
He sighed. It seemed like so long ago now. They all seemed so distant.
Returning to the cavern, he found it exactly as he left it. The crystalline tunnel was still open, waiting for him to direct it wherever he wanted.
The red rock runnel leading back to whatever wall or rock face on Mobius he directed it to.
And the crag led out over the ancient waters of the lake that had shown so many things.
He went over and looked in. Like always at first, it showed his reflection normally. Then an image of the Oracle appeared behind him, and faded out with his own reflection. When it faded in, he looked exactly the same, but with a halo and angelic like wings. He gave a grin, knowing he'd done the right thing, and looked away again, good humour restored to him.
With a weight on his mind, he made to close the red rock cavern. Something stopped him, though. Some unfinished business.
* * *
Tails and... uh... Tails both stood together.
"I guess I'm going to have to think of my own name."
"You could borrow my real name until you do."
Miles thought about it. "I guess it works. Sure you don't mind?"
"You're me, you're welcome to it. I'm used to everyone calling me Tails."
"Didn't you say earlier I wasn't you?"
"Well, yeah, but I think I was wrong."
"I think so too."
They looked off the mountain together.
"Do I really like making things that much?"
"Should stop by my workshop. Our workshop."
"Your workshop. I dunno if it's what I want to do yet."
"Well, you're welcome to stick around with me if you like."
"Thanks Tails." He thought for a moment. "It sounds odd calling someone else Tails."
"It seems odd to me looking at you. I mean, you look kinda like Sonic as well."
"I got some yellow fur, like you."
"Yeah, but it's where mine's white."
"Maybe it's just a reminder of me?"
"Sure yours isn't a reminder of me?"
Tails laughed, "You sound a bit like Sonic too. Almost like him and me together."
"Does that make me Miles 'Sonic' Prower?" he grinned back.
* * *
Aqua sidled up to Silver.
"I'm sorry I thought you attacked me."
"Don't worry about it. You didn't know."
"You know, I'm gonna have an amazing story to tell from this."
"Who would you tell?"
"Oh, my mates back in the village. I've been telling them all about what happened last time I met you guys."
"What do they think?"
"They reckon you ought to have kept Sonic's body, they reckon you done better with it than him."
"I think he might have objected a bit to that."
"Well, yeah, but that was just what they said."
"You want a lift getting back there?"
"Would you mind?"
"Of course not. Knuckles can let them know what's going on."
"Are you two really... like minds stuck together?"
"Pretty much. We're still getting used to it. Hold on."
He took Aqua's hand, and lifted them up, carrying them both along.
"Wow. We got a great view up here."
"It's one of the reasons I like travelling like this."
They travelled in silence, Aqua looking over at views he'd never seen before. Silver took the scenic route, avoiding Deadman's hill.
They landed in the centre of the village. Having already attracted attention, the tigers of the village were already gathered. A lot of younger cubs were grinning widely. Aqua's friends, he reasoned.
One of the adults stepped forward.
"Would you be Sonic?"
"Silver. I'm sorry for dropping in unexpectedly. Aqua asked me to bring him home."
Aqua ran to the adult. "Mom! You won't believe what happened to me this time!"
She looked up at Silver. He looked a little embarrassed. "Well, we had a little adventure again."
"I'm sure he'd love to tell us all about it. Would you care to stay for dinner? I'm afraid it's tuna."
"Tuna! My favourite! Please, Silver?"
"If you don't mind."
"Nonsense. Come on in. We'll have snow soon. We don't want to be caught out in the cold for long."
* * *
Amy hadn't left Sonic's side. He felt weakened, but alright. He was glad she was with him though, it made him feel all the better.
Knuckles joined them.
"Silver just went off to take Aqua home again."
"It was nice seeing him again."
"If you want, I'll keep in touch with Silver. Maybe sometime we can pay him a visit instead."
"I'd like that," Amy said. "He's nice." She looked up at Sonic. "Not as nice as you are, but at least he shows more good sense than you do."
"Hey, it worked, didn't it?"
"You got yourself killed."
"I came back, didn't I?"
"Only because you got that Oracle to give Liam his magic back." She looked around. "Where is Liam, anyway?"
"I haven't seen him since he revived Sonic," Knuckles replied. "Maybe he thought we wouldn't want to see him again?"
"Nonsense. If he thinks that, he's getting a whack from my hammer."
"He'll be fine. He's probably had worse."
* * *
Shadow collected the Chaos Emeralds, then went looking for Knuckles.
"I've got an idea," he told the Echidna.
"You want to keep them?"
"Try to be serious. You know what else used to be at the Master Emerald's shrine?"
"The Chaos Emeralds. Those posts that you couldn't figure out – they used to sit on top of those."
"You're kidding me. You want me to watch over them too?"
"I'll help you rebuild the shrine, if it makes you do it."
"You're the Guardian."
"You can help me build a house there too then."
"I thought you just wanted the shrine?"
"Yeah, well, Silver and I decided that since we're linked, we're going to need a place to live. He normally travels a lot, so it'll do him good to settle down."
"You two aren't... I mean, you're not..."
"What, getting together? Don't be silly, we're just moving into the same place, that's all."
"Yeah, some people would think you were though."
"They're wrong. It's just convenient."
* * *
Liam didn't glance up. He knew someone had just come in. Several someones.
"I didn't think you'd want to know me after what happened," he murmured, the cavern echoing it around to everyone.
"You weren't in control of yourself, Liam," Miles' told him.
"Perhaps not. But I did do it."
"You also undid it," Sonic sounded better.
Liam turned to see Amy and Miles supporting him.
Amy beckoned to Tails, who moved to support Sonic in her place, and she ran to confront Liam.
"You! You stupid, stubborn, proud boy! How dare you think we wouldn't want to be around you after you saved Sonic from your own mistake!"
"It seemed to make sense," he replied meekly.
"Amy, go easy on him. He'd old."
"Thanks, Sonic," he replied sardonically. He looked around. "Silver? And Shadow?"
"Shadow's keeping watch over the Chaos Emeralds for me. Silver and I will look after them as well as the Master Emerald from now on."
"He's meeting Aqua's parents." He grinned. "He got persuaded to stay for dinner. Guess what they're having?"
"Tuna, of course. What else would they have?"
Miles noticed something the others had missed, "Hey, where's this one go?"
They turned to see a new, third tunnel that had opened. It resembled the red rock cavern, but was blue instead.
"Don't go down it please. It doesn't go to anywhere on Mobius, and you'd attract a lot of unwanted attention there."
"It's for the best. I need a vacation anyway. You'll all see me again, don't worry."
"I don't know. But you can guarantee I'll see all of you again." His eyes twinkled merrily. "Give my regards to Dash."
"You'll see. In a few years. Amy and Sonic will be the first to see him."
They all caught the implications of that.
"Oh, by the way Miles. The word you're looking for? It's surfing."
"It'll come to you. Don't forget to take swimming lessons from Aqua."
"But I don't know... the slightest thing. You answered before I asked!"
"Of course. I do have some sight of the future. Someone find Shadow for me and tell him if I catch him with more than one of the Chaos Emeralds, I want to know why. I know what he saw in there," he motioned toward the water.
"Anything else you want to tell us?"
He thought for a moment.
"Not that I recall. Of course, if I think of anything, rest assured I'll get word to you somehow. But now, if you don't mind... I think I'd like to be alone before I leave Mobius for a while."
After they'd gone, he closed the red rock cavern. He wouldn't be needing it for a while.
* * *
"What's up, Amy?"
"You think Liam was right?"
"I guess we'll see when he comes into the world, won't we."
"Which won't be long. A few months now."
"I almost can't wait."
"I think I'd have preferred the surprise."
"Of course it's a surprise. We don't know anything about him yet."
"Of course we do. He'll take after his father. Running around, just like you."
A/N: And that's the end. For now, at least.
This story may be revisited, rewritten and improved on later.