He cherished the first running shoes he had ever been given like they were made of (Chaos) Emeralds. He had run hundreds of miles in them, learning about his speed and about what not to do when you encountered a trampoline in someone's backyard. If he had a son at that time, he would've told him not to jump on it. But nobody had told him it probably wasn't a smart idea. Coupled with his strong feet and growing attitude of invincibility, it had been a disaster from the first feet he went up in the air. At least, the landing zone had been a disaster area.
"But I digress," said Sonic. "I survived that incident, as you can see, and after a while I even dared to jump on trampolines again. A long while."
Tails giggled at Sonic's wink and clutched the blankets tighter to his chest, looking up at his big brother with adoring eyes.
"What was I talking about again?" said Sonic with fake ignorance, scratching his cheek. Tails giggled again, before replying: "Your shoes!"
Sonic stretched out on the chair and laid his shoes on the bed. "These shoes? Why would I talk about those?"
Tails pushed at the shoes, laughing all the way, until Sonic lifted his feet from the bed again and plopped them back on the ground. "No, no, your first shoes, Sonic!"
"Oh, right! They were some shoes alright…"
He saw them in the shop across the street. With his developing sonic speed he ran over to the shopping window and pressed his big head against the glass, fogging it up with his breath. Only when he wiped away the condensation could he read the price, and he groaned. They were too expensive, even if he saved up for a million trillion years, with added interest.
He lifted his eyes from the price back to the shoes, and sighed. The shoes were bright yellow, with two small blue stripes running vertically across. The shoelaces were the same blue, the exact same shade as his fur. They looked sturdy and tough, with tiny lights embedded in the soles. A sign proclaimed them to be the ultimate running shoes for kids, and the lights would light up every time he took a step.
He looked down at his current shoes, dull black ones. Already the sole was wearing out, and scuff marks marred the glossy finish. He gave them maybe a week before they would have to go back to the city to buy new ones. He'd beg his parents to buy the yellow ones, but knowing them, they'd opt for the cheap black ones instead, since he cycled through shoes as if he ate them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, with some added brunch and midnight refrigerator-raiding.
"Hey! Hands off the glass! I just cleaned it," shouted the balding baboon from behind the counter. The Mobian munched on a banana and scratched himself, but his eyes remained focused on the small hedgehog eyeing the shoes.
"Sorry," muttered the hedgehog, and turned away from the window. He wanted those shoes more than anything in the world, and he would run to the edge of the planet and back if he got them.
"Yellow and blue? But you said-"
Sonic waved a hand at the small kit, tipping his chair back onto two legs. "I know what I said, and at that time I forgot about those shoes. I didn't have them for long, y'know."
Tails wriggled around in the nest of blankets he'd created before answering. "So you didn't always have red-and-white shoes."
"Else I wouldn't have this story to tell," replied Sonic. "At that time I burned up shoes so fast… Cost my parents a fortune, I'm afraid."
"So how come-"
Tails cocked his head at the interruption. Even while he was so young, Sonic already knew that the fox possessed the mind of a kitsune, sharp and insightful. "Science made you those shoes?"
"No, science caught up to my speed and they created better rubber, which those shoes had. That's why they were so expensive."
Tails nodded understandingly, and Sonic grinned at the fox. "Glad I have your permission to continue."
The shoebox-shaped box Sonic's father came home with two weeks later made Sonic juggle his hopes into the air, three at the time, and he begged they wouldn't fall down.
"Not the black ones, not the black ones," muttered Sonic to himself as his father greeted Sonic's mother at his leisure, before turning his sparkling eyes onto his son.
"I've got something for you," he said, and knelt. "Now, I want you to listen very carefully."
Sonic ran closer to his father until their noses almost touched, and looked up at him with big eyes.
"What's in this box cost a lot, more than I dare to tell your mother. So I want you to be really careful with them, got it?"
Eagerly Sonic nodded, and he chirped some kind of "thanks!" at his father before tearing into the box. He held his breath in anticipation, and cheered when he saw yellow. With a triumphant grin he lifted the yellow sneakers from the box, eyeing the blitz design and lights in the soles. He spared his old shoes nary a thought as he kicked them off and slipped the new ones on. They were stiff with newness, but they felt tough and strong. The soles were thicker and Sonic gained half an inch, which made the tops of his ears reach his father's shoulders.
"Thank you thank you thank you!" cried Sonic as he ran over to hug his dad, and on second thought he tried to crush his mom in a bear hug with his tiny arms.
"Have fun with them, son," said his mom, though her gaze was fixed on Sonic's father. She mouthed something to him which Sonic didn't catch, but he knew he had to get out of there before his mom would start throwing things about salaries and life savings around.
"I'm going to try them out," he said, and was already at the door before his mom snapped out of her money-induced thoughts.
"Be careful, and don't go-"
"Into the Robot Zone, I know, mom. I'll be back before dinner!"
Sonic finally opened the door and zoomed outside. From the first few steps onwards he fell in love with the shoes. He felt confident, more confident on his legs than he had ever felt in his life. He ran up and down the green hills which surrounded his home and zoomed through the loop-de-loops of the first part of the zone. He moved faster than ever before and only the stiffness of the new shoes held him back, but at the rate he stretched them out, they'd be perfect in a day or two.
And then the real fun could begin.
"See, at that time I hadn't broken the sound barrier yet," informed Sonic the fox. He spun his tale with care, trying to include as many details as he remembered about the whole event. Sonic could probably sum the story up in three sentences, but that'd only leave him with more time to fill until the nurse came back.
"But with those shoes you did?" asked Tails, but to the fox' astonishment Sonic shook his head with a grimace.
"Almost. Not quite, though. Y'see…"
The following days Sonic ran like he had never run before. It was like walking on a packed layer of snow. It still crunched under your feet, giving you that joyful feeling of fresh snow, but it was solid and reassuring at the same time.
He ran so much he actually got sore leg muscles again, something which he hadn't suffered ever since his legs developed enough for him to tear down the street and startle roaming wild hares.
Training had become a daily routine, and every day he ran faster, jumped farther and taking off like a bullet became a goal. And all thanks to those shoes.
In short: it was a good time to learn.
And Sonic learnt like never before. The yellow shoes quickly became less vibrant and more muddy, but that didn't matter that much to the young hedgehog. His mother encouraged him to wear other shoes once in a while so she could wash the mud off the sneakers, but Sonic wouldn't have any of it. They were his property, and a day didn't spent running was a day wasted, or so he thought. School was a drag, until his sneakers hit the ground again and he was always the first off the playground. No parent escorted him, because no parent could keep up with him.
But all this changed one fateful day.
Lately Sonic had been feeling such force of wind whenever he accelerated to a certain speed he knew instinctively something was about to happen. But no matter how hard he pushed himself, his young legs weren't strong enough yet to propel him across this invisible threshold.
He needed more time, he knew that, but patience wasn't his strongest virtue. In fact, Sonic's mother wasn't sure he possessed any of that virtue at all.
"I know I can do it, mom," said Sonic as she tucked him into bed. His mother kissed him on his forehead before replying:
"Of course, son." But her tone didn't sound believing, and Sonic bristled.
"Don't tear the sheets, Sonic," admonished his mother, but Sonic ignored her, pouted and crossed his arms.
"I can break through that barrier, and I will break through that barrier. I'll make you proud, mom."
One look into his eyes could have told anyone that this young hedgehog wasn't bending over for anyone, and when he said he'd do something, you'd better get out of his way or be flattened. Or bowled over, jumped over, really any kind of movement which involved getting past you.
And for a brief second, his mother believed him.
"Your own mom didn't think you could do it?"
Tails had disbelief written all over his face, from the tips of his big ears, to his wide eyes, to his gaping mouth. Sonic chuckled at that face and at the memory of his mother's face when he did break the sound barrier right in front of her.
"Don't worry, she was a good mother. Just too… set in her way of thinking."
This appeased Tails enough that he could ask his next question. "But you said you didn't break the sound barrier on those shoes."
Sonic shook his head. "I didn't. Something happened, which made me get new shoes…"
Every day he got closer, closer to shattering that barrier which stood in his way of more speed, more exhilaration and a better runner's high.
Even though they had cost a lot, even the yellow shoes began to crumble into dust, and every day Sonic left more yellow flakes behind in his wake. The blue laces started to unravel. Only the sturdy sole kept the shoe together at all, even though the pattern on the soles had gone the way of the Echidnas.
Sonic slipped a few times, but was able to retain his footing thanks to his amazing sense of balance. His mother scolded him for ruining the expensive shoes so soon, but Sonic argued that they had helped him run faster than ever before. His mother didn't see the importance of this, and so Sonic got saddled with more chores around the house.
But whenever the opportunity presented itself, he slipped out and ran over the green hills, enjoying the sense of freedom he got whenever his feet touched the ground at those speeds. The world would soon be small enough for him to traverse.
And then, one fateful day, it happened. Something which shattered his growing cocky attitude and made him realize that moving at such speeds wasn't just awesome, it was dangerous too.
Once again he moved through the zone of the green hills, pushing ever closer to that elusive barrier which held him back. He held his arms back and kept his head low, pounding the earth with everything he had. He was so focused on reaching that point that everything else was a moot point. As long as he could run that fast, he'd prove his name true and his mother would be proud and his father would praise him.
And he would feel the wind around him whistling a jaunty tune, at least to his ears. It would be merry and poppin' balloons at a party, celebrating the first time anyone ever had crushed the mysterious barrier on foot.
Sadly, his shoes had been beaten up so much they couldn't take any more stress. Already he ran around thanks to bare threads which held the fabric and rubber together, and the glue loosened with every step.
But fate had tossed a coin and decided that that development wouldn't be the culprit of the event. A single, loose shoelace was.
The blue shoelace had defiantly worked itself free from its brothers and sisters and flapped around, as if saying: "world, here I am! Fear me and my blue shoelaceness!"
It was immediately treaded on.
For the blue shoelace this had far less serious consequences than for the owner of the said shoelace. The owner tried to step forward, jerked when his other foot stopped that movement, and a spurt of adrenaline poured into his brain, slowing everything down.
Every muscle in his body tensed as it knew what was coming. With whirling arms he tried to regain his balance, even stumbling would be better. But gravity had a hold of him and he was going down like a single-minded elevator. Instinctively he curled up and hit the ground rolling, though that didn't make it any better.
He failed to tuck in completely in time, and after the first revolution a mind-shattering pain cracked across his leg. Sonic didn't know if he let out a cry of pain. It all happened so fast and at the same time so slow.
He rolled on the grass, revolving over and over, his quills somewhat protecting him from the ground's cruel hug. He felt himself slow down, but it still wasn't fast enough. His leg hurt every time he rolled, since he couldn't tuck it in anymore. Every jolt was agony, every bump an eternity of pain.
And he just wouldn't slow down! Downhill he rolled, until in a split second he felt ground under his good foot again. He pushed off and sailed through the air for a few seconds, and he was able to get his bearings. He was still going too fast, too fast to stop, and he couldn't hit the ground running, not with his bad leg. He tried to angle towards a small pond nearby, but sadly he didn't possess wings or equipment to change direction mid-jump.
Sonic belly-flopped onto the soil and off he went again, tearing across the ground like a spinning top gone bonkers. With sliding on his belly he had far better friction, even though it hurt a lot more, and finally the world began to slow down.
A patch of mud finished Sonic's trial and sucked him to a complete stop.
Silence filled the room when Sonic finished that sentence.
"Did you have to go to the hospital too?" asked Tails, eyeing the clinical room. He pulled a face of disgust at the chemicals they used to clean the room, and eyed Sonic.
The hedgehog nodded. "Sure did. You don't go from three hundred miles per hour to zero on your belly without getting some scratches. But getting home, that was another thing…"
The first few seconds of silence Sonic could only lay there, breathing. Apparently his leg was on fire, and his belly joined the bonfire by throwing in a free inferno. His head hurt and something warm trickled through his fur.
On his other side the mud was cold and sticky, bordering on quicksand. Where his body made contact with the muddy water it stung, and the air blowing across his open wounds didn't help either.
In short, Sonic was miserable, hurt, and very scared. He did what any child did in that situation.
"Mom!" he cried out in a half-sob, though it didn't carry far, thanks to the pain in his head, which made him reconsider shouting loud.
"MOM!" he tried again, and winced at the pang of pain shooting across his temples.
But rationally he knew his mother wasn't nearby. He had been moving way too fast, at way too far from his home. He knew this zone, so he knew he was at least a twenty minute jog away from home. At Sonic's speed, that meant at least fifty miles.
When his mother didn't show up, he curled into himself and began to sob, occasionally crying for his mother. Only chirping sounds of the Flicky birds answered him.
The air and water made him shiver, and after a hearty ten-minute crying fit he Sonic felt his first panic fade away. Everything still hurt, his wounds stung by now, but he had to do something. Even his young mind knew that when you stayed out in the zones for too long without food, you'd die.
"I don't wanna die," he whispered to himself, and that spurred another crying fit.
When that had passed, he felt all cried out. His eyes now hurt too, and the fresh tear streaks grew cold in the small breeze.
His awareness of the surroundings returned and he realized that he was in danger. Hurt, stranded far from home and no way to reach said home. So he tried a different tactic.
He kept calling out, trying to suppress his crying. He kept that up for another ten minutes or so, but nobody came. There were no creatures around, or at least, no intelligent creatures.
When Sonic realized that, he clawed himself out of the mud and into the dry grass. The high grass surrounded him on all sides, shielding him from view.
For the first time he worked himself to his elbows and looked at his hurt leg. He promptly felt like crying again. His leg was obviously broken, since he now had a second knee where they shouldn't BE one. Luckily the bone hadn't punctured the skin, although it bulged dangerously.
With every heartbeat a throbbing pain let his mind know that yes, his leg was still broken. Sonic sat up completely and kept his eyes away from the wreck which was his leg. Would he ever run again? That thought was heart-stopping enough to seize his stomach and make it freeze with fear.
Sonic made a sitting half-jump as the Flicky bird appeared next to him, cocking its head curiously.
"Cheep?" it tried again when Sonic didn't answer. An idea struck him. Before the green Flicky bird flew away he grabbed it with his lightning speed. It struggled and chirped in panic, but Sonic stroked it on its head until it calmed down.
His mother had taught him that Flicky birds were semi-intelligent, capable of understanding a basic command. He hoped she was right, because his life depended on it now.
"You have to fly to my house and tell my mom that I'm hurt, little Flicky bird." Sonic looked the bird in its eyes and he saw understanding dawn in its huge eyes. "Got that? Fly home, find my mom, and make her come here. Please."
He let the bird go. It flew up, hovered a few feet above his head and chirped three times before it flew off. Sonic slowly sank down onto his back. His leg throbbed and more tears leaked free from his screwn-shut eyes.
Tails sat with wide eyes and his hands in front of his mouth, listening to the tale with horror on his face. When Sonic finished his sentence Tails drew a shuddering breath. He laid his ears flat and began to cry. Sonic was immediately upon him, crawling into bed with the young fox as he hugged him.
"Hey, it's alright, I survived, and I'm completely fine, see?"
"Y-yeah, but you must've been so scared…" hiccupped Tails as he rubbed his eyes. "Like I was…"
Sonic ruffled the fur on Tails' head. "You're so much braver than I was at that age, lil' bro. I mean, look at you, stopping Robuttnik like that."
"And still I land myself in the hospital," said Tails with a bitter tone Sonic didn't like at all.
"Hey, I got hurt running down a hill. I mean, come on, what's more heroic, do you think?"
Tails had to laugh at that, and Sonic grinned back. Tails didn't let go of Sonic however, so the blue hedgehog kept on sitting in the hospital bed.
"So the Flicky bird saved you?" asked Tails, and Sonic was glad he had cheered Tails up enough he asked about the silly tale he was telling.
"It sure did. It found my mom and led her back to where I'd fallen…"
Sonic watched the sun set from his supine position. He felt numb all over, with the occasional spike of pain from his leg. The cold from the ground had gradually worked its tentacles into Sonic's body, soothing him into shock. He only blinked and breathed, too tired to do anything else but wait for rescue.
"Sonic?" came a far-off voice, and Sonic slowly turned his head towards the sound. Had he heard that right? He tried to speak, but the sound caught in his dry throat. He tried again, but he could only whisper hoarsely.
"Sonic!" called a voice again, and this time Sonic felt sure it was his mother. A smattering of voices accompanied her, all calling out his name.
"MOM," Sonic tried to yell, but that resulted in a severe coughing fit. He heard people running closer, and as he tried coughing up his lungs three pair of legs stopped next to him.
"Sonic…" said his mother, and she embraced him in a hug. A second later a male eagle Mobian pulled her off him.
"I need to see his wounds," said the eagle. Sonic recognized him as the next door neighbor, but apparently he knew some first aid.
"His leg," whispered one of the other Mobians. Sonic didn't bother reacting, it was all becoming a blur to him now. The foreign fingers prodded him for further injuries and he was beyond caring, beyond crying.
They had found him, he had been saved. And as he lay there, on the grassy foot of the hill, he swore on his blue fur that he would never, ever…
"Never ever what, Sonic?" questioned Tails. Gone was the previous sad mood, now Tails wanted to know what Sonic so carefully kept hidden behind his thought-out sentences. Sonic grinned at him but didn't answer.
"Three weeks later, I broke the sound barrier on my new shoes. Those were the first red with white ones I had, and I've kept that color scheme ever since."
"But Sonic, what did you swear?" asked Tails again. Sonic smiled at him and ruffled the kit's fur. Tails would be alright, he concluded. Once he was out of the hospital he'd go straight back to tinkering with his planes and spouting more technobabble than should be legal. It wasn't often that Sonic actually sat down to tell such tales of his own youth, and he realized he should do it more often. Tails sure seemed to appreciate it, and it got his mind off things which weren't healthy for him, like dwelling on his own mishap with one of Robotniks' robots.
"I swore that I would never, ever," said Sonic as he waggled his foot, "wear shoes with shoelaces again. It's all buckles for me."
A/N: And that's why he wears buckles on his shoes. At least, in my mind. And hopefully now in yours too.