Sonic the Hedgehog
Healthy Apathy
By Lucky_Ladybug

Notes: Nack and Nic are copyright Sega (and Archie Comics, too, at least for Nic). The title is from the song "Latter Days," by Over the Rhine, which is copyright ???? Mark Sloan, Steve Sloan, Amanda Bentley, and Community General are copyright Viacom (I think). And hey there, y'all, hang in there! You know something's gotta work out! ;) You'll understand my assurance when you get reading here ;)

Nic the Weasel brushed her long dark purple hair, which tumbled over her shoulders and quite past her waist when it wasn't braided. She frowned into the mirror. "Durned brother, anyway," she muttered low, her blue eyes flashing.

She and Nack had gotten into another squabble, which had been triggered when Nic had accused him of walking all over her. Nack had responded that she was self-centered and that she thought the whole world revolved around her.

"That's me?" Nic had growled. "You could be describing yourself, you selfish pig!"

"Ohhh, so that's what you think of me, eh?" Nack had crossed his arms and raised an eyebrow at her. "Of course, you always used to call me a male chauvinist, so why shouldn't you go ahead and find me conceited and self-indulgent too? Tell me, Nic, when have I ever stood in your way?"

"All the time," Nic had snapped. "You're standing in my way right now." With that, she had shoved her brother aside and started to storm out.

"Nic . . ." Nack had protested.

But Nic had heard enough. She'd whirled around, slapped Nack across the face, and said low, "I don't want to hear it, Nack. Whatever it is, I don't want to hear it. Just . . . go away!"

Nic's thoughts returned to the present, and she discovered that instead of brushing her hair down, she'd been ratting it, making it frizz in every direction. Angrily she used downward strokes with the brush again, and her hair fell back to normal.

Whenever she and Nack had a confrontation, that was generally the end result—either she or Nack would storm out in a lather . . . though she usually didn't slap Nack silly, and Nack would never dream of doing that to her, though Nic wouldn't put it past him. For a minute, she felt a twinge of regret, but then she shrugged it off. "Durn fool," she said aloud.

In her head, she could hear their mother Mary saying sadly, "Ahh, Nic, lass, if only you could get on better with your brother. He will always be your brother, you know, and ahh, you would be so much happier if you got to know and understand him better."

"Oh, Mama, Nack was always your favorite," Nic muttered. "You'll always be siding with him." Though somewhere deep in her heart she knew Mary was right, she refused to admit it to herself.

She let loose with a yawn that nearly dislocated her jaw. "Dang, I've been up since four o'clock yesterday morning," she realized. Glancing at the clock, she saw with chagrin that it was nearly one in the morning. "Nearly twenty-four hours."

Still thinking angry thoughts about Nack, Nic collapsed into the soft, fluffy hotel bed and before long, was asleep.
The sharp jangling of the phone awakened the slumbering weasel. She groped for the receiver, muttering to herself as she knocked over the clock radio, her brush, and the rubber bands she used to keep her hair back. Finally grasping what she sought, she brought it up to her ear. "Yeah? What is it?" she said groggily.


"Yeah." In her tired state, she didn't stop to think that nobody called her by her full name, unless . . .

"Honey, this is Doctor Mark Sloan at Community General Hospital." There was a pause. "Honey, your brother Nack . . ."

"What about him?" Nic interrupted, anxious to return to her sleep. "Don't tell me my idiot brother has finally gotten a concussion from all those blows to the head."

"Honey, I wish it were that," the elderly doctor replied softly.

"Well, what the heck is it? Just tell me!" Nic snapped, more fiercely than she'd meant to. "I'm really not interested in what he's up to, but since you've called me, spill it."

"Honey, your brother . . . died tonight," Mark said slowly.


"This is a joke, right?" Nic finally replied. "Some sick joke Nack cooked up to get even with me. Well, it ain't working."

"Honey, it's no joke," Mark said gently. "There was a pileup on the highway. . . . Your brother was in one of the cars that crashed. He managed to rescue Mafia don Joseph Pacino's young daughter barely in time, but he. . . . Head first into the windshield. Honey, I'm sorry."

Nic was wide-awake now, her whole being aghast. "Well, that's just like him, to go off and do a fool thing like get himself pasted!"

"I know it must be a terrible shock," Mark went on. "I'm so sorry," he said again.

When she hung up with the kindly physician, Nic remained in the same position for ages, her thoughts a jumble, her mind whirling.

"He's not dead," she tried to convince herself. "He never is." But Mark had said the police had found. . . . She shook her head. "Unselfish critter." She knew in her heart that Nack had never really been selfish, but those words of anger had just come out without much thinking on her part. Nack had always been able to get out of rough spots in the past, but now Nic was being told that he hadn't made it out of this one—because he had wanted to save a little girl, and the daughter of the Mafia don he had been after, no less.

"Well, Nack, you really went out with a bang," Nic said softly, then collapsed into the fluffy pillows to let loose with the emotions she had tried to keep bottled up.

Finally she looked up and brushed at her eyes angrily. Mark had said that Nack was at Community General, and that if she felt up to it, to come by and ask for Doctor Amanda Bentley. Nic sighed, climbing out of bed. "Might as well get it over with now," she said to herself, picking up her rubber band from the floor.
"Is Doctor Amanda Bentley here?" Nic asked at the front desk.

"The pathologist?" Nic winced at the word. "Yes, I believe so." The receptionist then proceeded to give directions to the path lab.

When Nic reached the lab, the door to Dr. Bentley's office was open and the weasel slowly walked in. "Doctor Bentley?"

An attractive woman looked up from her desk. "Yes. Oh, you must be Nicolette."

Nic nodded, looking away.

Amanda got up from her desk and came over to her. "Mark told me," she said softly. "I'm so sorry."

"We weren't close anyway," Nic replied. How many times had she uttered that in the past? She had lost count.

Amanda gently led her over to a slab covered with a sheet. She pulled the sheet back, and Nic gasped.

"Nack . . . oh, Nack . . .!" She brushed his hair back, looking at his still form. "Where's his hat?" she asked suddenly.

"All his personal effects are in here," Amanda said softly, handing Nic a cardboard box.

Nic looked through it briefly, then asked, "Can I see the file?"

"Of course." Amanda found it on another slab and handed it to her. Nic flipped it open and read it carefully, then suddenly looked up, baffled. "Waiiit a minute!! This durn thing says he has green eyes!!"

"That's right," Amanda said, puzzled.

"Nack has blue eyes!!" Nic burst out.

Giving Nic a concerned look, Amanda took out her penlight and gently pried the lifeless weasel's eyelid open. "This weasel's eyes are green," she announced.

Nic came over and stared. "You sure those ain't colored contacts?"

"No," Amanda replied, "these are his real eye color."

"Well, then, this ain't Nack!!" Nic declared. She plopped down on a small table, her emotions mixed. "But if this ain't Nack, then WHERE IN THE NAME OF HEAVEN IS HE, AND WHO THE HECK IS THIS???"
Several hours later, Nic still didn't have a satisfactory answer. But she was relieved to know that this dead weasel wasn't her brother.

"The fingerprints turned up negative," Detective Steve Sloan, Mark's son, told her. "It isn't Nack, but the problem is, he doesn't seem to be anyone else either! The computer couldn't find a match for the prints."

"Well, he certainly was *somebody*!" Nic growled. "And where does he get off runnin' around impersonating my brother like that??!"

Steve smiled. "I thought you said that you and Nack weren't close."

Nic blushed. "Well, we ain't, but that just boils me! Thanks for trying, Steve." Both she and Nack had come to know the Sloans quite well over the past few years.

"Well, we're definitely going to keep trying," Steve assured her. "Not to mention now we also need to find the real Nack." He paused. "When was the last time you saw him?"

Nic sighed. "Yesterday, a few hours before Mark called me. We got into another argument down by the docks. I have no idea where he went after that." She decided not to mention how she had pushed him away and slapped him.

"We'll get on it, Nic," Steve said.

"Oh, one little thing," Nic called after him. "If Nack doesn't want to be found, trust me, Steve—even you won't be able to locate that rascal."
It was quite by accident that Nic stumbled across her brother late that night.

From out of nowhere, she heard a splash, followed by yelling and screaming and then a gun going off.

Rushing to the edge of the pier, she watched, as, coughing and sputtering, Nack (or else someone else who looked very much like him) dragged a protesting human up on the shore.

"That's the last time you make clones—of me or anybody!" Nack growled.

The human looked too defeated to answer.

After snapping a pair of handcuffs that he'd found over the baddie's wrists, Nack looked up, noticing Nic for the first time.

"What do you want?" he asked icily, trying to stand up. "Here to slap me again?"

Before Nic could reply, Nack swayed, falling forward in her arms, exhausted from his water fight and dizzy. "Nack!" she exclaimed, trying to steady herself.

She took a long look at this weasel, this battered, passed-out weasel who was her brother. His fur was damp from his plunge into the icy ocean, and he had a bruise on his forehead where someone had probably whacked him. He shuddered in the cold.

"A dare-devil as always," Nic said softly, plopping down on a crate with Nack. She took her bandanna off and tried to dry his fur with it. "But a live dare-devil, and thank the Lord for that!"

Nack stirred, his bright eyes fluttering open and focusing on his sister, who was happy to note the sapphire-blue color in them.

"Doggone it, Nack, I thought that clone-thing was you!!" Nic burst out.

"I didn't know you cared," Nack replied with a self-depreciating smile. "I didn't find out that I was considered dead until a few hours ago, and I set out to find this varmint." He indicated the guy he'd caught moments before. "I figured it was him behind the trouble—he's been making illegal clones for a while now. Sometime in the past, he found a tuft of my fur and used it to clone me. But somethin' went just a little bit wrong with the cloning and the critter wound up with green eyes."

"What happened to you?" Nic demanded, indicating the bruise.

"Oh, this? Varmint hit me with a wrench," Nack replied ruefully. "Right before we fell in the water. He shot his gun in every direction then, but he kept missing me. Somehow I managed to stay conscious until I got him up. Water kinda helped me stay awake." He laughed.

Nic was silent for several minutes. Finally she whispered, "Nack, I thought you were dead, I really did. And I realized . . . just how much I'd miss you if you really were . . ." She couldn't finish.

Nack grinned, pulling his sister close. "It's okay, Nic. Don't bawl about it." He paused. "Hey, I'm sorry 'bout sayin' that you were self-centered and all that."

Nic shook her head. "I should apologize," she sighed. "You weren't tryin' to torture me purposely. Mama always did call me 'Firefly,'" she added ruefully. "Even back then, I was always flyin' off the handle. The scary thing is, sometimes it seems that you weren't that far off the mark when you called me self-centered."

Nack laughed, then turned serious. "Naw, Nic, you ain't like that . . . most of the time, anyway. You've got a sweet spirit, but you hardly ever show it."

The weasel siblings lapsed into silence, and Nic sent a prayer of thanks up to Heaven that her brother had once again been spared from death, and that she still had the chance to be a better sister.